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DIY wearable system to accurately estimate calories burned from movement

Stanford engineers have built a low-cost portable system to estimate calories burned during movement more accurately than smartwatches. The system costs $100 and weighs only a little more than a smartphone, making it more attractive in many ways than expensive, bulky laboratory-grade systems. Plus, it can be made at home.

Patrick Slade, a Mechanical Engineering doctoral student at Stanford, led this work that was recently published in Nature Communications. They tested the calorie measurement system with a diverse set of participants performing a variety of movements in the lab. They found the system had about one-third the error of smartwatches. The work is completely open-source, meaning the computer code and instructions to create the system are freely shared online.

Future applications are numerous with a system like this. Slade says, “One of the most exciting things is that we can track dynamically changing activities, and this precise information will let us provide better policies to recommend how people should exercise or manage their weight.”

“It opens a whole new set of research studies that we can do on human performance,” says Scott Delp, director of the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance at Stanford and the James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering, and also a co-author of the paper. “How much energy you’re burning when you’re walking, when you’re running, when you’re exerting yourself on a bike – all those things are fundamental. When we have a new tool like this it opens a new door to discovering new things about human performance.”

Read the full press release

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