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Wearable Device Captures Food Intake, Lifestyle Patterns

eButton and iPhone (University of Pittsburgh)

eButton -- displaying allegiance to the city where it was invented -- and iPhone for size comparison (University of Pittsburgh)

A device developed at University of Pittsburgh allows people battling obesity to track their food consumption and physical activities without keeping separate records. The eButton, as the NIH-funded device is called, is now a prototype in pilot testing, and the result of research by Pittsburgh biomedical engineer Mingui Sun.

The eButton, worn on the chest like a pin, contains a miniature camera, accelerometer, GPS, and other sensors that captures data and information of eating behavior and health activities. It records the foods and beverages consumed and analyzes the time the wearer spends eating, and interactions with family or friends at the table. The device can also track the source of the food (e.g., stores or restaurants), individual items ordered, and preparation of meals.

Likewise, eButton tracks the wearer’s physical activities, particularly amount of exercise. It can also determine the time spent watching TV or sitting in front of a computer screen, and amount of time spent outdoors.

Sun says retrieval of the data from eButton is easy, but the data are still protected to protect privacy. The process is much like downloading photos from a digital camera. To protect the privacy of participants, the data are coded so they cannot be read until scanned by a computer to block human faces.

Read more: Virtual Reality Used to Study Food Addictions

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