MyFitnessPal Introduces AI Photo Recognition

MealScan allows users to search for nutritional information using their smartphone cameras

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Need to Know

  • Meal Scan, a new visual search feature on MyFitnessPal, allows users of the app to access and input nutritional information for what they’re eating by using their smartphone camera.
  • Users can hover their phone over their meal, and MyFitnessPal will search its database of foods to deliver real-time food recognition and nutrition intelligence.
  • The tool is built through a partnership with Passio, a real-time AI visual search startup.

Analysis

MyFitnessPal, the health and food-tracking app, has added a new AI-powered visual search tool that allows users to input their snacks and meals simply by holding their smartphone camera over what they’re eating.

The new tool, called Meal Scan, allows users to hover their phone over whatever they’re eating; Meal Scan will then scan MyFitnessPal’s database of 14 million verified foods that match what the app is seeing. Users can select a matching food, and populate their profile with nutrition information, portion size, and other variables. The tool also allows users to log multiple items at once, by holding their phone over their entire meal, even if it features more than one type of food.

MyFitnessPal, which is owned now by Francisco Partners after a recent sale by Under Armour, partnered with real-time AI search pioneer Passio to build the tool. The AI feature is meant to make it easier for users to hit their fitness and nutrition goals by eliminating the need to manually input meals and snacks, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome. However, the tool is not fully automated; users still need to confirm the foods, portion size, and the nutritional information displayed after they scan their meal. The tool is live on the MyFitnessPal app now.

“We know that when people jump onto [MyFitnessPal] there’s no magic pixie dust in the app so that suddenly you hit your goals. You still have to do the work,” Michael La Guardia, senior vice president of product for Under Armour Connected Fitness, said in a statement. “So we’re trying to make logging as effortless as possible. We want to help more people be mindful of their nutrition and successfully change their habits.”

A number of health and fitness-focused companies have accelerated their innovation efforts in recent months, as COVID-19 has closed gyms and driven individuals towards home fitness solutions. These include Lululemon, which entered the home fitness space in July of last year with the acquisition of Mirror, putting it in a position to compete with other leading home fitness companies such as Peloton.

Apple, meanwhile, launched Apple Fitness+, its own online workout platform, in September; Apple Fitness+ is a subscription-based program that is optimized for the Apple Watch, and can be bundled with subscriptions to other Apple products such as Apple TV. And earlier this year, fitness mainstay Weight Watchers joined the digital fitness space with D360, which offers online coaching, fitness programs, live and on-demand expert-led content, and more.

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