|(Copyright The Ottawa Citizen 2004)|
Canadian troops are stripping off their uniforms in a precedent-
setting experiment that could ultimately provide the most detailed
digital snapshot ever taken for such a large segment of Canada's
Technology that gathers ultra-precise measurements
for military uniforms is being rolled out at bases across Canada.
Troops, clad only in their underwear, step inside an 2.5-metre-high
booth, click on a joystick and wait several seconds while two cameras
snap a digital image and software converts it into 3-D.
Databases containing body measurements for uniforms will be networked,
the statistics aggregated and compared. The result will be a historic
analysis of the Canadian Forces' average physique.
Scanning System for 21st Century," or "BoSS-21" units - - jointly
developed by the Defence Department and a University of Toronto imaging
researcher -- is already in use at bases in Trenton, Esquimalt, B.C.,
Edmonton, and St. Jean, Que., where it captures 37 measurements in 40
Eight more systems will be in place at bases by 2008.
Portability will transform more than just the complicated business of
provisioning 200 uniform styles for 60,000 members of the Canadian
navy, army and air force.
"You'll be able to answer questions
like, 'Is the navy a certain size?', and contrast that with the army
(from) statistics about the size and shape ... ," said the device's
co-creator Shi Yin, a 43- year-old electrical engineer, and chief
executive of VisImage Systems Inc.
Measurements will be 100-per-cent accurate, and instantly retrievable from anywhere in the country.
Military planners will be able to deduce information to improve
decision-making in a range of situations. Knowing how thin or obese
soldiers are from different bases might lead to changes in menu design,
"Or, you might need different kinds of garments in
Edmonton rather than Victoria, where it's more temperate, so you'll be
able to quantify how cold it is and figure out if you'll need more
fleece, and if so how much more," Mr. Yin said.
U.S. and French
militaries have developed their own body scanners, but at less than
$50,000, Mr. Yin's is one-fifth the price. It's the only one with a
cubicle for privacy, and has the most sophisticated artificial
intelligence, he said.
The strongest interest in such technology
outside the military comes from government health officials, who see
scanning as a cheaper, error-free way to take a physical census of
SizeUK and SizeUSA, studies carried out by the
governments of Britain and United States in 2001 and 2002, scanned
thousands of volunteers using equipment developed for the garment
industry and found astounding physical changes in the population,
including rising rates of obesity.
Brazil, China, Korea,
Australia, France and Mexico are among nations now planning, or
conducting, similar health-oriented projects. The European Commission
wants to use scanning data to standardize rules for clothing sizes
across member states.
Michael Wolfson, assistant chief
statistician for Statistics Canada who runs the health-statistics
program, said the federal government is considering a low-dose x-ray
technology, called Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, or DEXA, for a
national survey of Canadians' physical health to begin in 2007.
Body scanners have also started showing up in commercial use at some
retail stores in New York, as gimmicks to market better- tailored