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Graduate student designs nutrition scale

By Fabian Mayer, November 3 2015 —

University of Calgary PhD student helped create a scale that keeps track of the food you eat. The Slate Scale is a portable device roughly the size of a smartphone and linked to an app that provides a breakdown of the calories, carbs, protein and fat in your food.

Computer science student Teddy Seyed began the project with co-creator Rana Varma over a year ago. Varma came up with the idea after his doctor told him he had high cholesterol.

“Turns out what I was eating wasn’t actually as healthy as I thought. So I thought I should be tracking my nutrition the same way there’s activity trackers that can track how many kilometres you run,” Varma said.

After not finding any satisfactory products, Varma decided to invent one. As Varma has a business degree, he needed someone to help with the programming, so he approached Seyed who he met at a local technology workshop. According to Seyed, the reaction to the scale has been good so far.

“We’ve had interest from people reaching out who have
diabetes. They found this might be useful for them. People who do bodybuilding type stuff found it really interesting as well,” Seyed said.

In addition to being able to type in the food you are weighing, the app can also scan the barcodes of products to automatically provide nutritional information. The app draws this information from a United States Food and Drug Administration database. It also learns what foods you typically eat and makes those options easily accessible.

“What we’re trying to do is make it seamless so people don’t have to constantly type things in,” Varma said.

The pair launched a crowdfunding campaign for the product last week. As of Nov. 3, the campaign is 40 per cent of the way to its $50,000 goal.

“We didn’t want to go out there and manufacture our first run without validating that there’s demand for the product,” Varma said.

Seyed said the biggest challenge was getting the scale right. The pair went through five 3D printed prototypes before settling on their current model.

“Neither of us really had the hardware background so we kind of had to learn it on the fly,” Seyed said.

The Slate Scale also won a $10,000 health competition held at the U of C last year.

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