Emergency responders are often faced with uncertainty when responding to incidents, but soon, they could have some help in assessing a location or situation's safety: a rubber-framed camera the size and shape of a tennis ball that can instantly transmit a 360-degree image to a smartphone from its six cameras. The tool, created by Bounce Imaging, could be useful when a responder is unsure if an area is safe or wants more information about an area that isn't visible, such as through a crack or beneath debris, RedOrbit.com reported.

With an expected price tag of less than $500, the device would be sold for about one-tenth of the cost of the cheapest competing devices designed for the same use, said Francisco Aguilar, the company's founder. “But we hope that with our technology, it could be expanded to volunteers with low-cost units that could be tossed into air pockets and collapsed spaces in search of victims,” Aguilar told the BBC.

The device also has slots for additional sensors, such as smoke or temperature sensors for a firefighting model, or methane and coal dust sensors for a mine inspection model. The ball can also use infrared imaging to take pictures in low light conditions. Bounce Imaging stated that its camera ball, which was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2012, could see prototype deployment with several police units in Massachusetts in the coming months.

See the bouncing ball in action:

Image courtesy of Bounce Imaging