updated 08:55 pm EST, Tue December 27, 2011
Sensors analyze body volume to estimate mass
Researchers at Eurécom in France and the Italian Institute of Technology's Center for Human Space Robotics have demonstrated a system that utilizes Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect accessory to weigh astronauts in microgravity environments. The sensor is used to make a 3D model of an astronaut's body, enabling a computer program to extrapolate mass based on volume estimates.
"Something that you could easily put inside the walls of the space station would free up the space for other equipment or experiments," Eurécom computer scientist Carmelo Velardo told New Scientist in an interview.
The researchers claim the Kinect system is capable of making estimates with a margin of error of approximately 2.7 kg (~6 lbs.). The accuracy is said to be comparable to the existing alternative, which uses a stool connected to oscillating springs.
Velardo suggests the Kinect tool will be tested aboard a parabolic aircraft flight that replicates the conditions found in orbit. It remains unclear if the technology will be used aboard the International Space Station or other space-bound missions.