May 4, 2015 · 2 minutes

Recent tragedies in Baltimore, Ferguson, and elsewhere, have put a national spotlight on everyday policing procedures as well as how law enforcement behaves and reacts during high-pressure situations. Although many of the most publicized incidents resulted from seemingly split-second decision making, the events have drawn attention to bad police behavior during home raids gone awry.

One small startup may have developed a tool that can not only help limit tense policing situations but may also have applications beyond law enforcement.

Bounce Imaging, a company working out of the Harvard Innovation Lab, has been testing a new camera that it hopes will both protect law enforcement/military personnel from potentially life-threatening situations and lead to a decrease in violent interactions between those suspected of crimes and police.

The company’s product, currently called the Explorer, looks like some futuristic, large rubber Wiffle ball. However, the throwable tactical reconnaissance device is outfitted with 6 high resolution cameras, has a choice of white LED or infrared lighting, and is engineered to take one 360º image per second. The images are sent instantaneously to an app user nearby, giving an immediate assessment of what may lurk behind a corner, in another room, or in other difficult to see places. The camera can be rolled into a room or bounced around a corner and can be used in the dark; in fact, the white light flashes have a secondary use of momentarily stunning and blinding a potential adversary.

Developed by Costa Rica native Francisco Aguilar and former Army Ranger Dave Young, the product was initially conceived by Aguilar as a safe way to try to found survivors of tragedies such as earthquakes; in fact, the co-founder thought up the ball-like device after observing the use of more expensive and less useful cameras and robots after the Haiti earthquake.

Manufactured in Haverhill, Mass., by Lightspeed MFG, Bounce Imaging’s camera has been tested by multiple police forces, including the SWAT team from Revere, Massachusetts. Beyond local police force use, the device obviously has the potential to be used by both federal law enforcement agencies and the military.

However, for Aguilar, who grew up in a country with no standing army, the camera’s main use is to prevent violence. "This is a purely defensive, or peaceful thing," Aguilar said. "Nowadays, if you've got a domestic violence situation between a boyfriend and a girlfriend and you can't get inside, the procedure is that you knock down the door and you throw everyone on the ground and you figure it out."

"We are trying to deescalate that," Aguilar said. "Our mission with this is to limit harm."

Bounce Imaging plans to ship the first 100 devices to organizations that have ordered the device by June. The white light version retails for $1500, while the near infared-enabled device costs $2500. According to Aguilar, the price is meant to be cheap enough for those using that if the device is lost, while say exploring a fire or after a tragedy like an earthquake, it isn't an enormous loss. "You can't do that with a $50,000 robot," the Bounce Imaging co-founder said.