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Smile for the Bouncing Ball

Technologist

If you make your living in a dangerous profession like the military, police or disaster response, knowing what’s around the corner can mean the difference between life and death.

An MIT-hatched startup called Bounce Imaging has developed a new technology to put eyes on areas that are too dangerous to enter blind. The device is called Explorer. It is a softball-sized orb that holds a camera with six lenses pointed in different directions and either visible-light or near-infrared LEDs. Read more and see video of the device in action below.

The “tactical sphere” snaps images a few times every second and beams them back to a smartphone or tablet. The user’s device stitches the images together to make full panoramic scenes that can be navigated with the swipe of a finger.

“It basically gives a quick assessment of a dangerous situation,” says company CEO Francisco Aguilar, who initially conceived of the device in the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Aguilar decided to build something that could help rescuers search through rubble instead of cumbersome fiber-optic camera systems.

The first tactical spheres will go on sale in July. A version equipped with bright white LEDs is listed on the company’s website for $1,495. For $1,000 more, the sphere comes with near-infrared LEDs that discretely illuminate the surrounding environment without emitting visible light.

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