Wacom, the leading manufacturer of pen tablets, interactive pen displays and intuitive interface devices, today announces that the Intuos3 A4 pen tablet is the first to be used in outer space. Astronauts are using the pen tablet in a series of experiments analysing the way they perceive distances and dimensions during their time on the International Space Station (ISS).
On Earth, people can feel and see the effects of gravity on their bodies and surroundings. The human brain naturally takes gravity into account in several cerebral processes used for orientation, visual perception and motor control. In microgravity, however, many normal references are lacking: objects float in space and the notions of up and down are no longer relevant. As a result, the brain receives unfamiliar information. Could this mean that the disorders experienced by astronauts are due to certain processes being altered by changes in the gravitational field? How does the brain adapt?
In conjunction with a number of French research laboratories, the French space agency CNES has developed a neurosensory stimulation platform, SENS, based on virtual reality. This unit can be used for neuroscience experiments involving astronauts before, during and after flights on the ISS.
Two Wacom Intuos3 A4 tablets are being utilised as part of the neuroscientific research project known as 3D Space. The 3D Space project aims to examine changes in astronauts' mental representations of their surrounding environment.
"3D Space is designed to test the hypothesis that altered visual perception affects motor control," explains Eric Lorigny, payload developer at CNES. "The astronaut is asked to reproduce shapes or text on the pen tablet. The pen tablet allows us to record and analyse the reactions both on earth and in space."
Guido Möller, Wacom's product manager professional products, worked closely with the CNES: "This is a very special milestone in Wacom's history and we are very proud that the European Space Agency chose the Intuos3 to use for its research".
The Intuos3 is a series of ten pen tablets aimed at professional users. It is used in various areas ranging from design to medical applications. Each tablet features a resolution of 5,080 dpi and Wacom's patented cordless and battery free pen has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The Intuos3 now has been qualified for use in space by CNES.