Police Will Throw This Camera Ball Into Rooms

“Tactical spheres”

Police Officer With Explorer Orb And tablet Display

Police Officer With Explorer Orb And tablet Display

Courtesy of Bounce Imaging

“Camera in the hole!" police officers soon shout, as they toss the new Explorer camera orb into a dangerous room before entering. Made by MIT alumnus at Bounce Imaging, the Explorer is a small, grenade-sized sphere full of cameras that first responders can throw into a space ahead of them, and when remotely activated, it assembles a panoramic image of what’s inside said space. Now, there are plans to get 100 Explorers into police departments. See them in action below:

We gave the Explorer and Invention Award in 2013. The rubber-coated ball has a camera inside with six lenses, to capture the scene inside a room, and it can transmit those photos remotely to a tablet or smartphone (Bounce Imaging's website says it works with both Android and iOS). The basic version sells for about $1,500 and uses white LEDs lights to illuminate the room it's thrown into. A "tactical" version, aimed at police, uses near-infrared LEDs instead, and goes for just shy of $2,500. Both versions can be attached to a $20 pole, and they create a 360 degree panorama every second for the full 30 minutes of run-time.

The Explorer isn't the first thrown scouting robot. The aptly named "throwbot" is also grenade sized, can be hand tossed, and even features wheels and a remote control to drive it around. Throwbot is aimed at a military customer, and has a microphone so that troops can listen to the people inside a room as they freak out about a tiny rolling robot.

Unlike the Throwbot, Explorer doesn't move on its own power, which tailors it for different purposes. Rescue workers could drop Ex[;prers into nooks and crannies that are otherwise inaccessible for larger tools but perfectly fine at accommodating a rolling ball, its lights and camera finding stuck people. And for police work, it provides a nice alternative to flash-bang grenades, letting the officers know what is inside the room without any accidental burning of toddler faces.