Two scientists from Hong Kong claim they have found a solution to apparel companies' age-old problem of finding out how heat and perspiration affect clothing comfort - a sweating manikin called Walter.

Fan Jintu and Chen Yisong of the Institute of Textiles and Clothing at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have invented a life-size dummy from pipes and pumps and covered by a waterproof fabric with minuscule moisture-permeable holes.

Sensors connected to a computer allow different temperature and humidity levels to be set so thermal insulation and loss of moisture vapour can be measured at the same time instead of separately.

The birth of the high-tech dummy was revealed in the Journal of Measurement Science and Technology, with its "parents" hoping it will interest firms that test apparel where heat is a factor, such as athletes, soldiers and astronauts.

"The manikin will be extremely useful for better understanding the dynamics of heat and moisture transfer from the human body to the environment," said Fan.