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J Food Eng. 2012 Mar;109(1):76-86. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

Imaged based estimation of food volume using circular referents in dietary assessment.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA, United States.


Measuring food volume (portion size) is a critical component in both clinical and research dietary studies. With the wide availability of cell phones and other camera-ready mobile devices, food pictures can be taken, stored or transmitted easily to form an image based dietary record. Although this record enables a more accurate dietary recall, a digital image of food usually cannot be used to estimate portion size directly due to the lack of information about the scale and orientation of the food within the image. The objective of this study is to investigate two novel approaches to provide the missing information, enabling food volume estimation from a single image. Both approaches are based on an elliptical reference pattern, such as the image of a circular pattern (e.g., circular plate) or a projected elliptical spotlight. Using this reference pattern and image processing techniques, the location and orientation of food objects and their volumes are calculated. Experiments were performed to validate our methods using a variety of objects, including regularly shaped objects and food samples.

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