Throwable camera aims to save lives


Is it a child’s bouncing ball or the latest in covert surveillance? A new bouncing ball lets law enforcement, military personnel, and search and rescue teams quickly evaluate dangerous environments before they enter them.

Bounce Imaging makes the Explorer throwable camera, which throws like a softball but functions like tactical tech. MIT students Francisco Aguilar and Dave Young developed the innovative technology, which became available this month.

Watching the rescue efforts during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Aguilar was determined to come up with a better way to help find survivors.

Search and rescue teams often have to resort to fiber-optic camera tech which can be expensive, bulky, and difficult to maneuver in the field. Explorer is a solution that is simple to use, low cost and works with the everyday smartphone and tablet technology.

What is it?

Explorer is about the size of a softball. Highly durable, it can withstand a seven-foot drop onto concrete.

The device’s exterior is a thick rubber shell – its interior contains a state-of-the-art camera with six lenses. The lenses each look out of a different spot.

When Explorer is sent into action, its camera takes a few photos every second from its lenses. Sophisticated software then uploads the images to a mobile device – whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. All the raw images are put into one processor.

When you look at your screen, the software has already stitched all the images together to build full panoramic images. Costa Rican Institute of Technology engineers developed the cutting-edge image stitching software.

The device’s transmission range is 60 feet through a standard wall.

Explorer could prove invaluable in a host of dangerous environments – whether a city hit by an earthquake, a burning building or a hostage situation.

Bounce Imaging also designed the ball to be its own wireless hotspot, ensuring that the ball can communicate with the first responder’s mobile device and quickly deliver important images.

A tactical version of the technology features near-infrared LEDs that illuminate the space for the cameras. It has a 30-minute run time at full flash capacity.

Simple to use, Explorer doesn’t require any expensive or time-consuming training like some other systems.

How could it be used?

There are a lot of applications for Explorer. In search and rescue situations, such as an earthquake, the ball could be dropped into small holes in rubble to help teams locate survivors.

For law enforcement and the military, the ball could explore buildings in advance, reducing risk to human life. Teams or individuals could safely learn what lurks behind closed doors, around corners and other spots beyond their line of sight before moving into the space.

Explorer could also reveal lurking threats like explosive devices and potential adversaries, as well as their location within a building. The throwable camera could also provide information on how adversaries are armed, as well as the location of victims or hostages.

Developed with law enforcement

Bounce Imaging was founded in 2012 – the team has worked closely with law enforcement departments to develop the high tech ball and ensure it is easy to use in potentially high-risk environments. The company will be deploying 100 Explorers to police departments throughout the country.

Future editions may feature additional enhancements like carbon monoxide and radiation sensors.

Explorer is available now for $1,495 and the Tactical edition is available for $2,495.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.