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Tech
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4-min read

The Food Book Recipes App Has a Million Options, And Its Secret Ingredient is Artificial Intelligence

This app is free to download from the App Store and brings one million recipes to the table. At the tap of a button on your phone, in 11 Indian languages.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:May 31, 2019, 2:42 PM IST
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The Food Book Recipes App Has a Million Options, And Its Secret Ingredient is Artificial Intelligence
This app is free to download from the App Store and brings one million recipes to the table. At the tap of a button on your phone, in 11 Indian languages.
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Most of us love food. The term the cool people refer to is foodie. Or something on those lines. Some of us love to cook to. After all, the foodie has to be fed. But not everyone has the skill to try out new recipes on their own. Recipe books are for the old school, recipe apps are cool. That puts Hitbytes Technologies and their wide range of recipe apps in the perfect place, including the one that rules them all—the Food Book Recipes app. This app is free to download from the Apple App Store for the iPhone and iPad with an optional in-app Premium subscription for Rs 79 and brings one million recipes to the table. At the tap of a button on your phone, in 11 Indian languages. What you get is recipe curation like no other. And that is because of the artificial intelligence (AI) at play. But the journey to this point has been anything but conventional for Hitbytes Technologies.

Four friends Jomin V George, Jarish Jose, Sarath Mohan and Nithin P Molathu, founded Hitbytes Technologies in 2013 . Like most entreprenuers, they also strugged with a tough phase initially. “We launched a website and it never kicked off as expected. But we kept working by focussing on the 'Entrepreneurship' dream and our passion in coding,” says Jarish Jose, Co-founder, Hitbytes Technologies. It was at the time when a friend purchased an Apple iPhone 4s, one of the most attention garnering phones at the time. “There started everything, we were so much fascinated by the apps in it. We realised that it is the future,” says Jose. While they were wondering about app ideas, since they were convinced that an app is what they wanted to make, the eureka moment came when Jose’s mom struggled one day to search for a Fish Biryani recipe. What if they could make an app with a million recipes available at the touch of a glass pane.

If you go through the Hitbytes Technologies’ catalogue of apps on the Apple App Store, there are 14 apps at last count. Most of these are focused on food and recipes. Weight loss recipe book, diabetes recipe book, healthy recipe book and so on. But what’s different? “Food Book Recipes is the combination of all our apps in the App Store. Rather than food books, we are getting a lot of users from Healthy Recipe Book. It is one among our top apps in all platforms. Because the users are very interested in getting healthy recipes as easy as possible,” says Jose.

How is the traction? “Till date Food Book is having above 100 thousand active users. The users trend is always finding new recipes which is more convenient for them,” says Jose. Do people turn off after a point, probably once they know the recipes or are more familiar with the entire activity of cooking? “Absolutely not!,” says Jose vehemently, before adding, “we are using the AI to track the taste of the user. So once the user finds his/her favourite recipe, then the app will suggest the recipes are incredibly similar to it. So the user will be keep engaged.” The analytics data that Hitbytes Technologies gets suggests that the Food Store and the Food Shot features are quite appreciated by users.

Food Shot is a very unique feature that lets you identify an ingredient (or five!) that you may otherwise be baffled with. The app uses AI to detect and identify the ingredient that you have pointed your phone’s camera at, and then also lists the recipes that have those ingredients. This is where Apple Core ML plays a major role. Core ML is a framework on which app developers can build the artificially intelligent frameworks, including image analysis and natural language processing. All the data is collected from the recipe database, and you don’t even need to be connected to the internet at the time for this to work. Food Store lets you select particular ingredients from any recipe, and then search for more recipes that use the same ingredients.

This leads us to the question—how important is artificial intelligence in the larger scheme of things? “AI played a huge role in the success of Food Book Recipes. One of our prominent feature is Food Shot. It is fully based on Artificial Intelligence. It recognises the picture of the ingredient in real time by the help of AI and finds the recipes having those. Secondly we are also making use of AI in tracking the user interaction with the app. It finds the specific area where user spends the most and suggests the recipes accordingly,” says Jose.

If you are using the Food Book Recipes app on an iPhone, you can even leverage the power of Siri, the artificially intelligent virtual assistant. Conventionally, the app would work when you swipe on the screen to scroll to the next step in each recipe, and so on. However, Jose says that it is quite simply not possible for a user to have their hands free while cooking, and therefore swiping every time to get to the next step could be a problem. “In this scenario a voice command recognition feature would be very helpful for the user. Like when the say the ‘Next Step’ the app should read it out. Here comes the importance of handsfree cooking and we ended up in Siri Shortcuts,” he says.

While we as users mostly interface with certain parts of an operating system, the software and the apps on our smartphones, there is actually a lot that is working in the background to enable that experience. Apple’s Core ML machine learning framework is one of those weapons that app developers can deploy to offer user experiences not possible on smartphone, perhaps a few years ago.

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