AVA
Boston-based startup AVA uses image recognition and AI to estimate the calories in your mealsAVA

Many people today can't resist snapping beautifully artistic photos of their meals, from the simple morning smoothie to that deliciously sinful sticky toffee pudding. But what if you could instantly find out how many calories you're about to consume as well?

Boston-based startup AVA has launched an "intelligent eating" service that allows you to take a photo of your meal, send it to AVA via text and instantly receive nutritional and caloric information about your grub with the help of artificial intelligence and nutritionists.

"We wanted to provide an easier way for people to track what they're eating and provide them with really personalised recommendations from a health coach based on what their specific needs are," co-founder and CMO of AVA, Jeanne Connon told IBTimes UK. "AVA uses artificial intelligence to assist nutritionists in estimating calories as well as making recommendations, factoring in historical eating habits, diet patterns, location and behavioural analysis against a database of roughly 50,000 meals."

The team has not disclosed exactly how the AI-powered technology works since the service is still in private beta mode.

The startup plans to offer a variety of monthly, subscription-based nutrition programmes where a nutrition coach can give a user real-time qualitative feedback and meal recommendations that fit within their calorie goals. However, not all of the programmes will focus on calorie counting. While most of the schemes offered will evaluate overall nutritional value, others will focus on both fitness and nutrition.

"We've seen in our early pilot that factoring in larger data sets makes for more accurate and personalised recommendations, and that these play a considerable role in driving engagement and overall effectiveness of our programmes," said Ian Brady, co-founder and CEO of AVA.

The startup also plans to add dietary preference, medical history, location and accessibility to food to further personalise recommendations as well.

"What's unique about our approach is how we're combining evidence based nutrition science and clinical practice with our proprietary technology," said Connon. "Our Nutritional Science team is guiding our processes for collecting data and developing our systems to ensure that technology is facilitating better user outcomes and lifestyle changes, beyond a positive customer experience. On the other end of the spectrum, we have very experienced technologists, who understand how to leverage this technology in a specific vertical like nutrition."

The startup has already received $3m (£2.1m) in seed funding from multiple Silicon Valley firms including DCM Ventures, Khosla Ventures and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors.

"There's a pressing need to automate and optimise human expertise, particularly in the health and wellness space," founder and managing partner of Khosla Ventures, Vinod Khosla, said in a statement. "We believe AVA is part of that next-generation thinking, with technology that amplifies the potential of highly skilled experts to make important nutritional support more widely available to consumers."

AVA is expected to launch publicly later this year. People interested in testing their beta can sign up on their wait list as well.