Researchers are using the Microsoft Kinect to calculate a person's weight just by looking at them — perhaps even in outer space. Computer scientist Carmelo Velardo and a team at the Italian Institute of Technology's Center for Human Space Robotics created the system, which uses the Kinect's body-tracking camera to generate a 3D model of a given individual. A database of 28,000 people is then utilized to calculate weight based on the physical measurements of the subject, generating results that the team says are 97 percent accurate. Velardo sees the system as being ideally suited for use in space travel: without gravity, normal scales are useless, and astronauts must climb atop an oscillating spring-mounted stool to measure their body mass. The Kinect system is both smaller and more energy efficient than the current solution, with Velardo hypothesizing that it could even be built into the walls of a space station.

NASA scientist John Charles gave a cautious thumbs-up on the concept when speaking with New Scientist, noting that water shifts in the body caused by zero gravity could throw off the calculations being used. While the system hasn't been trialed in space yet, Velardo hopes to soon take it aboard a reduced-gravity aircraft, which simulates weightlessness without leaving Earth's atmosphere. The Kinect system will be presented at the Emerging Signal Processing Applications conference next month in Las Vegas.