The federal government helped finance the creation of a so-called "diet choker" that monitors the eating habits of the wearer.
WearSens, created by engineers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), is a necklace that can automatically detect when a person is eating or smoking, and can send alerts to a smart phone telling the user to stop.
The invention received a $148,379 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2013 to create a sensory necklace to "fill the need of automatically detecting swallows and eating patterns."
Researchers at UCLA, led by Majid Sarrafzadeh, the director of the Embedded and Reconfigurable Computing Lab of the university’s computer science department, released the findings of a pilot study on the necklace this month.
CBS News called the invention "slightly odd."
"These sensors track the vibration that occurs in the neck when a person chews food and swallows their drink," the report said. "This ‘diet choker,’ designed by engineers at University of California Los Angeles, can even sense what type of food you're eating since something crunchy is likely to make the neck vibrate more than food that's soft. The sensors can also determine if a person is downing a hot or cold drink."
New York Magazine described the necklace as a "choke collar to judge your eating habits."
"The WearSens choker can assess portions and contents of meals, whether someone is chewing, drinking, or smoking — all by tracking throat vibrations," they said. "The device can be set to buzz or send alerts if any undesirable behavior occurs."
A video demonstrates how users can enter their age, gender, height, and weight into a smart phone app and set diet goals. The app currently has a section entitled "My habits." Positive messages include: "you ate breakfast today," "you ate at a good speed," and "you are at 90 percent of your goal."
"Great job! Keep it up," a message from the app reads after the user eats breakfast. "Breakfast is your never miss meal. Breakfast gives you energy. It tops up your energy stores for the day and helps to regulate blood sugar."
Negative messages read: "you skipped meals," "you may be dehydrated," and "you may be eating too much."
Sarrafzadeh told Popular Science that he and his team personalized the device in a pilot study by having people eat a "3-inch Subway sandwich and then sip down a 12-ounce drink."
The researchers envision the device not only for dieting, but also for quitting smoking, or reminding people with medical conditions to take their pills.