How it all started

A brief, comical presentation on the history of PhotoCalorie at Ignite: Boston.

It all started with an idea: utilize photos and smart phone technology to simplify the food journal process. The brainchild behind this idea, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Mark Boguski, first pitched this concept to his dietary research intern at the time, Larry Istrail. Larry was researching effective weight loss methods, and became intrigued by how difficult it is for subjects in diet studies to estimate their portion sizes and record what they ate each day. He thought this would be an excellent way to help dieters lose weight, and improve their health. Mark then recruited Vincent Fusaro, a programmer in the bioinformatics department and one of Mark’s colleagues at Harvard.

With three of us on board, we began working on an iPhone app. We wanted to create the easiest food journal on the planet. One that could could understand common language and let the user enter their entire meal, no matter how large, with one simple search. Larry scoured the internet, compiling the nutrition information for as many  foods, restaurants, and snacks as he could. Vincent programmed the iPhone application, coupling the iPhone’s built in camera with a simple user interface.

After 2 months of work and tremendous progress, we encountered our first major obstacle: in order to change the paradigm and eliminate the universal method of searching for each food individually, choosing the best match from a list of 100 closest matches, and then choosing the serving size for each food separately, there needed to be a sophisticated search algorithm that could find the right foods based simply on what the user types. We needed a database specialist to help us. As it turns out, Larry’s cousin, Adam Marcus, was the perfect man for the job, pursuing his Phd in the computer science and artificial inteligence lab at MIT!

With each of us having full time commitments, PhotoCalorie development was limited to nights and weekends. We finally finished version 1 in late December, and released PhotoCalorie V1 to the world on January 1st, 2010. For the past 10 months, we have been improving and developing PhotoCalorie into the platform it is today.  No longer limited to just iPhone users, anyone with a computer or smart phone can use PhotoCalorie and track their diet. We are working hard to add new features and improve the user experience even more, in our mission to create the easiest food journal on the planet.

If you have any feedback for us, we’d love to here it. E-mail us at!

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