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Business trends

AI app checks for halitosis through tongue image analysis

Developer Lion hopes the service will boost sales of its oral care products

Lion's new smartphone app is meant to supplement tooth brushing.

TOKYO -- Toiletries maker Lion has developed a new smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to gauge breath odor intensity based on images of the tongue.

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be more than just embarrassing -- it can affect a person's work performance, especially in the hospitality industry. It can also indicate serious underlying medical conditions.

Dozens of products like gum, mints and mouthwashes are marketed to fight bad breath, but most are only temporary measures that do not address the cause of the problem.

The app was developed in cooperation with Fujitsu Cloud Technologies and mobile phone content provider MTI.

The leading cause of bad breath is bacteria that grow on the surface of the tongue. Lion has amassed data on the correlation between the amount of halitosis-related bacteria and breath odor using AI. This data has enabled measurement of odor intensity through analysis of images showing conditions on the tongue.

The app assesses odor intensity at three levels, and users can easily view the history of assessments on the app.

It will be provided first to the service sector, where workers often worry about their breath when attending to customers. The targeted industries include hotels, restaurants and airlines. Lion is planning to make it available for general sale after it has decided on pricing.

In a company survey, 68% of respondents said they were not confident in their method of preventing bad breath. In a separate survey, conducted through social media, 65% of respondents said they wanted someone else to check how their breath smells. The results showed a potentially high demand for an odor assessment app.

Lion hopes its new smartphone app will boost interest in its NONIO line of dental care products.

The company is aiming to raise awareness about the importance of oral care through the app. That, it hopes, will in turn boost its efforts to promote its NONIO toothpaste and mouthwash brand.

Lion released NONIO last summer, touting it as the first general oral care brand with a feature to prevent bad breath. The products have taken off mainly among young people.

The oral care market in Japan is becoming increasingly competitive.

Kao in April also launched an oral care item with a similar effect under Pyuora brand.

Lion's long-term management vision, announced in February, is to become "the leading company in next-generation health care" by 2030.

The company is rushing to improve sales of oral care products and develop new businesses in related services. It is placing the mouth odor assessment app as the key in its future online business.

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