|(Copyright Times Colonist (Victoria) 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 eight-foot-high
booth, click on a joystick and wait several seconds while two cameras
snap their digital image and software converts it into 3-D.
Databases containing body measurements for uniforms will be networked
together, the statistics aggregated and compared. The result will be a
historic analysis of the Canadian Forces' average physique.
The "Body Scanning System for 21st Century," or "BoSS-21"
units - - jointly developed by the Defence Department and a University
of Toronto imaging researcher -- are already in use at bases in
Esquimalt, Trenton, Ont., Edmonton, and St. Jean, Que., where they
capture 37 standard measurements in 40 seconds.
This fall, the
Defence Department announced expansion of the program, which will see
eight more systems in place at bases by 2008.
transform more than just the complicated business of provisioning 200
different 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 (average) size?', and contrast that with the army (from)
statistics about the size and shape of (military personnel)," said the
device's co-creator Shi Yin, a 43-year-old electrical engineer, and CEO
of VisImage Systems Inc., in Toronto.
Measurements will be 100-per-cent accurate, and instantly retrievable from anywhere in the country.
From garment sizes, 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, for example. "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 (uniforms), and if so how much more," Yin
U.S. and French militaries have developed their own body
scanners, but at less than $50,000, 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 claims.
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 citizens.
Studies carried out by the
governments of Britain and U.S. in 2001 and 2002, scanned thousands of
volunteers and found astounding physical changes in the population,
including rising obesity rates.