Artificial Intelligence

The AI Pastry Scanner That Is Now Fighting Cancer

Overview An artificial intelligence scanner system made to differentiate more than 50 types of pastries and bread is now being utilized in the health care field to detect cancerous cells.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has found its way into robotics, sports, drones, advertising and more as businesses discover how the technology can improve processes and address operational challenges.

In Japan, an unexpected use case of AI in bakeries inspired a doctor to look into adapting the system to detect cancerous cells.


Differentiating a Bun from a Donut

In 2007, analysts conducting market research on bakeries in Japan found that a bakery would sell more bread the more varieties it offered and that pastries sitting in the open instead of in packaging sold better, perhaps because they appeared fresher to the consumer. The ensuing difficulties — with cashiers trying to memorize hundreds of pastry types without any labels or barcodes and checkout processes delayed — caused a chain to turn to an AI company to automate the checkout process.

The resulting AI system could scan bakery items on a tray, identify each unique pastry and correctly price it, expediting the checkout process and making it more hygienic as well. Initial setup and a feedback mechanism in the system allows employees to specify items or correct the AI so that it achieves the highest levels of accuracy.

With a backlight to eliminate shadows that can obstruct the pastry shape, a Magnet system that can guess when a pastry has been ripped and whether it is actually one item, another system that can classify two separate items touching, and more, BakeryScan creates business efficiencies and allows bakeries to explore even more varieties.


Inspired by Bread

Seeing BakeryScan on the news in 2017, a doctor at Kyoto’s Louis Pasteur Center for Medical Research realized how, under a microscope, some cancer cells closely resembled some of the pastries and baked goods that the AI system was scanning.

The now specialized Cyto-AiSCAN uses the same technologies that can differentiate a donut from a cream bread to identify cancerous urinary cells with 99% accuracy. By measuring the nuclei of the urinary cells and picking out certain visual cues, the deep learning mechanisms can determine if the cell is diseased.

Over time, Cyto-AiSCAN could analyze an entire microscope slide of cells at once instead of each cell individually, dramatically speeding up the diagnosis process and helping doctors more effectively treat patients.


The AI technology is now also distinguishing different pills and locating problems in mechanical engineering. From helping small businesses expand their operations to saving lives, AI has shown how it can be an integral partner in processing large amounts of data and addressing challenges.

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