This Phone Scans Your Food (and Probably Thinks You're Fat)


The H2 is the first phone to include the SCiO sensor from Consumer Physics, a miniaturized near-infrared spectroscopy sensor that measures the light reflected off a sample item to determine its composition. It can, for example, tell you how healthy your food is, whether your pills are fake, and what you're feeding your pets.

I saw several demos showing how the H2 can be used in different contexts. In each case, you hold up the corner of the phone to a substance, run a special app containing a database, and get the results in a few seconds. The phone showed what it claimed were the differing sugar values of fruit, the caloric content of a bowl of noodles (once you input portion size), and said it was able to tell real medication from fake. It also tested my body fat, and, well, I don't think I'm fat. But they said that app was buggy.

The uses here should be obvious. Lots of older people order medicine from abroad to save money; making sure that it is what they say it is, is important. You could use it to test drinks at bars to make sure they aren't drugged. Anyone who cooks knows there's a plague of fake olive oil out there right now. And just in general, the device gives you much more knowledge about what you're putting into your body.

"What we're doing to spectrometry is what mobile phones did to computing power," Consumer Physics VP Yaron Dycian said.

Beyond the sensor, the H2 is a chunky, midrange phone. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 16GB of storage and a gigantic but somewhat low-res 6-inch screen. It runs Android 6.0.1. The prototype on show at CES was full of debugging software; it clearly wasn't a final unit. The phone isn't actively awful, but you're here for the sensor.

SCiO was the subject of some controversy when it raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter in 2014-2015 but did not deliver sensors to backers. Its Kickstarter page was ultimately taken down as part of a trademark dispute. And since this is unique technology, it's very hard to tell if it actually works.

The sensors are now on sale and are being used by animal feed, agricultural, and food manufacturing companies, Dycian said, but he wouldn't name any of Consumer Physics's industry partners. "There is a big industry today of analyzing animal feed, and we have a number of the top five animal feed companies who have tested this," he said.

The H2 will initially roll out in China, but it's coming to the US later in 2017, Dycian said. It will cost a mere $433 in China.

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