Have you ever sat down to a meal and asked yourself, “is this a hot dog?” In the only slightly fictionalized world of HBO’s Silicon Valley, a programmer receives funding to create a mobile app that identifies all types of food from an image, but instead develops one that identifies whether a food item is a hot dog or not. This app is real.
This turns out to be inadvertently useful technology in the story, but wouldn’t be in the real world. Food recognition apps are real and more developed than the show would have you believe, and a few have even promised to calculate calories and nutritional information based on what food the app recognizes in the picture. The most popular current app that does this is called Calorie Mama, and others have come and gone in the past.
I downloaded the app and found that it successfully identified an 8-pack of hot dogs, and flagged my dog as not a hot dog.
Real versions of fictional apps have happened before: Netflix developed an official version of the FakeBlock app from Arrested Development. The woodblock simulator is longer available, but there are unofficial alternatives still on various app stores.
A storyline on the Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine involved cops addicted to a Candy Crush-type game called Kwazy Cupcakes, which is still available, and surprisingly playable.
In the show, the app’s technology ends up deployed to solve a very different problem. (If you’re waiting to view the episode when it comes out on DVD or just later, stop reading here.) Twitter buys the technology and deploys it to flag when penises appear on screen on the live-streaming app, solving one of the concerns that social media companies have faced with their applications that let any user broadcast live.
If the character Jin Yang could come up with something that could be adapted to identify on-camera violence, Mark Zuckerberg would certainly be on the phone.
(via The Verge)