By Design December 2013

Photobomb: A New Data-Recording Device for First Responders

It's round, it bounces, and it snaps pictures every half second.
Mike Basher

A violent suspect loading his gun, flames licking toward a gas leak, a bomb ticking in a corner—any number of terrifying threats could await a first responder opening a door or rounding a corner. swat teams and the military have long used robotics, fiber-optic cameras, and other tools to suss out a situation. But this technology can be technically complex and too expensive for the vast majority of cops, firefighters, and search-and-rescue teams.

Bounce Imaging, a Boston-based start-up, has developed a device, called the Explorer, that it hopes will solve these problems. About the size of a baseball, it is equipped with six cameras, a microphone, and interchangeable sensors. Unlike its robotic equivalents, the Explorer is intuitive to use and requires minimal training: all the user has to do is press a button and toss the device toward the targeted area. As the rubberized ball bounces and rolls, its cameras snap photos every half second, using near-infrared lights (which are invisible to the human eye) as a covert flash. It relays these images back to a synchronized mobile device, which stitches them together into a panoramic view. The device also transmits room temperature, a live audio feed, and information from up to two sensors (options currently include carbon monoxide, explosive gases, and radiation). The Explorer can’t be manipulated remotely like robotic probes, but it provides feedback for up to 15 minutes.

Bounce Imaging intends to sell the Explorer for less than $1,000 and will soon begin testing the device with a Boston swat team; a police unit in Revere, Massachusetts; a prison response team in Maine; and the MIT campus police.

Presented by

Eleanor Smith is an Atlantic senior associate editor.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Technology

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In