ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Zero gravity does much more than just make you weightless, it can make you taller, and allow you to lift heavy things, but it can also really throw your balance off.
“So when astronauts come back to Earth, they have awful balance, they cannot even walk straight,” said Jordan Cincotti, an RIT Engineering student, and the team leader of the Gamification of NASA Balance Training group.
Cincotti and a team of 11 other students from RIT have continued a project initially proposed as part of the Moon to Mars Exploration Habitat Academic Innovation Challenge. The goal was to test balance, in a way that is functional and fun.
“We started off with the big large base, that is to improve the balance over time,” said Cincotti. “On our portable option using the same core concepts and the same core technology shrunk it down and used motion tracking to evaluate the balance and that itself could be used in a reduced gravity environment in the future.”
Both systems utilize virtual reality to immerse the astronauts in their environment, along with the moving platform or the balance board. Maintaining your balance can be a real challenge, especially if your body is used to floating in space.
“The astronaut will have to react to the game and have the moving platform underneath them and that…That test definitely affects how someone is able to balance. So if they’re able to do well in the game it will be a good way to improve their balance over time,” said Cincotti.
In the end, Jordan and the others hope the technology can be adapted and possibly used in future missions to space, which was the original idea behind the test.
“Ideally, an astronaut will be on a spaceship and they will be able to improve and maintain their balance while they’re in space so that when they come to Mars or I guess even the moon be able to still maintain some level of their balance,” said Cincotti.
For those who want to try the technology out themselves, it will be on display during the Imagine RIT event on Saturday, April 29.