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Phone with 'infrared vision' knows how fat you are (hands-on)

/ Updated: January 6, 2017 1:31 PM PST
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A phone with "see-through" vision sounds like something out of science-fiction, but one device at CES 2017 comes close to exactly that.

Using a near-infrared spectrometer, the (terribly named) Changhong H2 phone can determine things like how fresh your produce is, if your medicine is fake and even your body fat percentage.

The H2 does this by shining a light onto objects (like fruit, medicine and your skin), which penetrates the surface. Molecules from the object then send back light in different ways and this information gets beamed up to a database cloud where it's processed and analyzed.

We first saw this technology from the same company (Consumer Physics) at last year's CES, when it was a $250 (or £200 and AU$340 converted) standalone sensor called SCiO. Back then, the sensor worked with a phone app, which you had to pay a monthly subscription for.

This time around though, the company teamed up with a Chinese phone manufacturer (Changhong) to make a phone with the sensor fully integrated. The sensor is located on the back of the H2 handset, and the phone is preloaded with apps that can analyze different things.

Scanning only takes a few moments, and the apps have easy-to-use interfaces that make using the sensor quick and easy. When I checked out how sweet an apple was, for example, a little dial scale displayed the apple's Brix levels. The phone also displayed a big red exclamation point when I scanned a counterfeit pill. And measuring my BMI took only a few seconds after I plugged in my height, weight and age info.

The H2 detecting a fake Viagra pill. Womp womp.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

While the scanning concept is pretty cool, take this phone with a grain of salt. There is no perfect method to determine body fat outside of getting a medical body scan in a lab (the gold standard of measuring, really). Counterfeit medicine is also a serious problem, and you should avoid taking any batch of pills if you're suspicious of its authenticity anyway, regardless of what a sensor says.

In addition, pricing information for the H2 has been set at 2,999 Chinese yuan. Though other pricing hasn't been announced, that converts to $433 (and £352 and AU$594). But I expect it to be more expensive than that, given that the sensor itself cost $250. Add an Android smartphone to that (with a 6-inch HD display, 16-megapixel camera and fingerprint reader) and it may be more expensive.

The Changhong H2 will hit China in the first half of this year and the US in late-2017.

Click here more on CNET's coverage of CES 2017.

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Where to Buy

Changhong H2

Part Number: CNETChanghongH2

Visit manufacturer site for details.

Quick Specifications

  • Diagonal Size 6.0 in