Using a Microsoft Kinect Camera to Measure the Mass of Astronauts

How do you weigh someone in a zero gravity space station?  Well, you don't, because their weight is zero. But mass is ever-present and measuring it can be a difficult proposition without gravity. Currently a motorized chair on springs is used that measures how a person bounces when sitting on it.

Researchers from Eurecom in Alpes-Maritimes, France, and the Italian Institute of Technology's Center for Human Space Robotics in Torino have developed a method that relies on a Microsoft Kinect 3-D video camera to calculate the volume of a person in front of it and using statistics to turn that into an estimated mass measurement.

From the New Scientist:

Then the team ran their calculation using a statistical model that links weight to body measurements based on a database of 28,000 people. Velardo's [Carmelo Velardo, computer scientist at Eurecom] estimates are 97 percent accurate, corresponding to an average error of just 2.7 kilograms, which is comparable to the current method used on board the ISS.

"This technique appears feasible, although not without some effort," says John Charles, chief scientist on NASA's human research program in Houston, Texas. He says that microgravity shifts water around inside astronauts' bodies, which means their density may not match the assumptions in the model.

Charles adds that combining the idea with the existing weighing system might prove more beneficial, as the Kinect measures body volume while the stool measures mass.

Read on at New Scientist: "Kinect Weighs Astronauts Just by Looking at Them"


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

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