March 8 - Police and fire-fighters may soon have a new tool for assessing dangerous situations before taking action. Boston company, 'Bounce Imaging' have developed a camera-ball designed to be tossed into a room where it can detect and transmit real-time information about an unfolding crisis. Ben Gruber has more.
Francisco Aguilar and David Young are testing a new prototype designed to give first responders a glimpse of a potentially lethal situation. The prototype is a ball fitted with wide angle cameras and sensors capable of determining the presence of dangerous chemicals As it bounces through the room, near-infrared illuminators light up the scene as the camera ball snaps pictures. These images are then wirelessly transmitted to a smart phone in real time, giving the user panoramic views of the scene. The device addresses a question Aguilar asked himself after the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the more recent string of deadly shootings in the United States. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRANCISCO AGUILAR, CEO, BOUNCE IMAGING, SAYING: "You are seeing situations where regular police now have to act like SWAT teams because you have more dangerous folks talking over buildings and starting to shoot civilians. You can't wait for the SWAT team anymore. But the technologies available to big city SWAT teams aren't available to a police officer responding in Wisconsin or Connecticut or Colorado." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID YOUNG, U.S. ARMY INFANTRY AND CCO OF BOUNCE IMAGING, SAYING: "Being able to see into a space before you enter it, giving you that incremental increase in situational awareness that could really save the lives of your team members and absolutely, I definitely believe this could save lives." The camera ball is a set of remote eyes and ears. As it bounces through the room the cameras shoot hundreds of images, all of which can be compiled into a 360 degree view of the scene. The ball's microphone and other sensors provide additional, crucial information. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRANCISCO AGUILAR, CEO, BOUNCE IMAGING, SAYING: "So for example now, fire-fighters are concerned about the release of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide after a fire. And so those are two sensors that work well with our central board that we can swap in when we need to use those. " David Young served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S army infantry. He says the beauty of the camera-ball is its simplicity. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID YOUNG, U.S. ARMY INFANTRY AND CCO OF BOUNCE IMAGING, SAYING: One of its greatest attributes is that it is a ball. A lot of the stuff out there right now that addresses this problem is a complex robot or a little flying UAV, a miniature UAV that you have to control and it is complicated and expensive. So everyone can understand what this is. Everyone understands how this works - you throw it." The company has plans to test the ball with a police unit in the field in the next few months. They're hoping for a positive reaction so they can get the ball rolling for expanded trials elsewhere.