Nachiket 'therapist' Mhatre, Dec 29, 2011 1427 hrs IST
May replace current bulky space weighing systems.
Of the many Kinect hacks, this one's literally space age. Apparently, your friendly neighbourhood Kinect haxx0rs have managed to turn the X360 motion gaming accessory into a weight measurement tool. No, don't just step onto your Kinects yet, because Carmelo Velardo, a French computer scientist at Eurecom (Alpes-Maritimes) research institute, has devised a way to gauge your weight just by having you stand in front of the X360 accessory.
You're probably wondering how is it beneficial to astronauts. You see, since regular weighing scales use earth's gravity as a reference, it's especially difficult to measure weight in zero-g space environment. Currently, NASA employs a cumbersome contraption that does the job by analysing the oscillating frequency of astronauts bouncing around on a spring-loaded stool. However, the current bouncy weight measurement method consumes a lot of precious energy and real estate. It's added weight also increases the cost and complexity of launch delivery systems.
Astronauts need to watch their weights not just because one gets fat in space, but because the lack of gravity puts reduced strain on human muscles. This causes them to atrophy and contribute up to 15% loss in body mass. This is compensated by 2 hours of daily exercise, coupled with close eye on their weight.
The Kinect mod uses its depth-sensing ability to create a 3D model of the astronauts, which is then compared against a database of 28,000 human examples. The system uses statistical analysis to correlate the link between weight and body measurements. According to the creator's estimates, this system is 97% accurate with an average error of 2.7 kg. This is on par with NASA's current spring-loaded table system.
What's more, due to its ability to accurately recreate the human form for volumetric analysis, scientists will be able to detect changes in body density by factoring in the readings of NASA's mass-measuring stool contraption. If adopted on the International Space Station or other such manned space endeavours, this Kinect hack will save considerable time, energy, and money. That is, provided the astronauts don't get addicted to Gears of War instead.