I have mixed feelings about technology. I’m a blogger, so obviously I appreciate the power of the internet to spread information. Heck, I gave a whole speech on how the internet and social media have enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to shove aside a lot of the official (and bad) dietary advice.
I also love having production tools at my disposal, stuff only professional studios could afford not long ago. Earlier in the week, I was going through interview footage for the film version of the book. I had to shoot much of that footage in less-than-ideal circumstances, using the available light in a hotel room, a cruise-ship room, etc. In at least one case – an interview with Dr. Ann Childers – something went goofy in the camera during the shoot. Partway through the interview, the footage suddenly looked like this:
Yikes. I tried randomly fussing with the color wheels in Premiere but couldn’t get a natural-looking balance. Once again, internet to the rescue. I logged into my account at Lynda.com (an outstanding learning site) and watched some tutorials on using Adobe SpeedGrade. A few hours later, I understood what the various color scopes are telling me, how to work with gain, gamma, contrast, saturation, shadows, midtones, highlights, etc. Then I opened the footage in SpeedGrade and adjusted it to this:
Not many years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to afford anything with the power of SpeedGrade, and even if I had access to the technology, I wouldn’t know how to use it. Now we have the entire Adobe suite at our disposal for $54 per month. When I need to learn a technical skill quickly, I go to Lynda.com and get instruction from working professionals who are excellent teachers. Chareva’s been doing likewise to learn InDesign for laying out the book.
That’s the kind of technology I love. Now here’s the kind I can’t stand …
On my way to work this morning, I was sure I was going to get rear-ended by a woman in an SUV. I was sitting at a red light and saw her approaching in my rearview mirror. Hmmm, she doesn’t seem to be slowing down, I thought. Just as I was bracing for impact, she hit the brakes and managed to stop in time. Then I noticed the @#$%ing smartphone in her hand. Like millions of other people these days, she apparently can’t wait until she stops somewhere before checking that oh-so-important tweet, email or Facebook post.
That’s twice in the past several months I’ve almost been creamed by idiots with their eyes pinned to a smartphone while driving. I see plenty of other idiots with their eyes pinned to a smartphone while attending (physically, anyway) a baseball game or concert, or while sitting in a restaurant with three other people. I don’t get it. I’ve yet to see the Facebook post would tempt me to ignore my wife while we’re out for dinner.
Love technology, hate technology. And then there’s technology that’s utterly pointless, like the one mentioned in a Science Daily article:
Carrots and apples not only taste different. They make distinct sounds when chewed.
I learned that years ago while sitting next to people who shouldn’t be allowed to eat in restaurants … even if they don’t check Facebook while eating.
This may seem like trivial knowledge, but it’s not in the laboratory of University at Buffalo computer scientist Wenyao Xu, who is creating a library that catalogues the unique sounds that foods make as we bite, grind and swallow them.
If I need a person chewing carrots sound effect in the film, I know who to call. Perhaps there’s a person who wasn’t told ‘chew with your mouth closed’ as a child chewing carrots in a crowded restaurant while checking Facebook sound effect that would work even better.
The library is part of a software package that supports AutoDietary, a high-tech, food-tracking necklace being developed by Xu and researchers at Northeastern University in China.
Described in a study published February by IEEE Sensors Journal, AutoDietary is like Fitbit and other wearable devices. Only instead of tracking burned calories, it monitors caloric intake — in other words, what we eat — at the neck.
Good grief. So this contraption says, “Hmmm, that sounds like carrots. Logging 30 calories into today’s record.”
AutoDietary wraps around the back of the neck like a choker necklace. A tiny high-fidelity microphone — about the size of a zipper pull — records the sounds made during mastication and as the food is swallowed. That data is sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth, where food types are recognized.
Then the data is automatically routed to the NSA, where super-computers run algorithms to see if you show a marked preference for falafel or other Middle Eastern foods.
“Each food, as it’s chewed, has its own voice,” says Xu.
I’ve noticed that. I recently chewed some Brussels sprouts that sounded just like Christopher Walken. Or maybe I was hearing my nephew across the table. He’s a whiz with voices.
The device could someday help people suffering from diabetes, obesity, bowel disorders and other ailments by enabling them to better monitor their food intake and, thus, improve how they manage their conditions.
Uh … because it’s so darned difficult to write down what you eat? Or log what you eat into that smartphone you take into restaurants so you can ignore your dinner companions? I give it two years before this thing is covered by ObamaCare to assist people with diabetes, obesity, bowel disorders and other ailments.
The study describes how 12 test subjects, male and female, ages 13 to 49, were given water and six types of food: apples, carrots, potato chips, cookies, peanuts and walnuts. AutoDietary was able to accurately identify the correct food and drink 85 percent of the time.
Well, that’s going to be a HUGE problem. According to the calorie freaks, miscounting your calories by 10% can lead to obesity. So we’re going to have people getting fat and then yelling, “That @#$%ing necklace logged my nightly serving of apple pie as a carrot!”
While promising, a wearable necklace that measures sound has limitations when used alone. For example, it cannot differentiate similar foods such as frosted corn flakes and regular corn flakes.
Another HUGE problem. If you have corn flakes for breakfast, you’re eating crap. If you have frosted corn flakes for breakfast, you’re eating crap frosted with crap. Once again, you’ll get fat and you’ll have nobody but the necklace to blame.
To address these limitations, Xu is planning a biomonitoring device which would complement AutoDietary. The device is underdevelopment but it would be activated once the necklace recognizes that the user is eating a general category of food.
The biomonitor would then determine the nutritional value of the food via blood sugar levels and other measurements.
So buy a blood-sugar meter. You don’t have to wear it, which means you don’t have to accessorize it tastefully during the fashion season.
The system then gathers and presents this information on a smartphone, while providing suggestions on healthier eating.
And I bet that will be sterling advice … something like “eat more whole grains.”
Here’s my suggestion for healthier eating: don’t eat corn flakes, with or without sugar. Don’t eat bread, cereal, chips, sugar, or chemically extracted “vegetable” oils. In fact, don’t eat any “food” substance that only exists because of industrial processing.
Do that, and you can live without the necklace … even if you can’t live without your smartphone while driving.