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Throwable WiFi Camera 198

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i've-got-my-eye-on-you dept.
Dotnaught writes "The Eye Ball is a spherical, throwable WiFi camera designed to precede police into areas where there's no direct line of sight. It's manufactured by O.D.F. Optronics, Ltd, an Israeli maker of vision-based systems for the defense, security and consumer electronics markets. Remington Arms Co. has won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to sell the Eye Ball domestically, with law enforcement being likely buyers. The cost is about $4,800 for two EyeBalls (who would want just one?), which apparently also includes video monitoring gear."
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Throwable WiFi Camera

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  • by joe 155 (937621) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:27PM (#14230468) Journal
    back in my day when we wanted to see round corners we held up a little mirror and looked, these cameras would be very difficult to get somewhere completely useful, and even if you could the person who was going to shoot at you could just move. It seems you would need the ability to move the viewable image to follow them like with.... a mirror?
    • by sterno (16320) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:28PM (#14230487) Homepage
      Camera with thermal imaging in the eye ball and then smoke grenaes. done deal.
      • by Meagermanx (768421) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:33PM (#14230505)
        I was just playing Splinter Cell, so I'm wondering why they don't just use those launchable cameras you can attach to your silenced assault rifle's grenade launcher?
      • Camera with thermal imaging in the eye ball and then smoke grenaes. done deal.

        Thermal imaging equipment is incredibly expensive. A non-hardened camera is generally $10k-$15k, although I've seen used models for as "low" as $5000. I would expect that an Eye Ball equipped with one would cost about ten times what the standard ones do.

        The military could still afford them, but police? And even military purchasing departments would (I hope) be a little hesitant to hand close to twenty thousand dollars in hardware
    • by shotgunefx (239460) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:48PM (#14230577) Journal
      I saw a demonstration today on tv. It rotates horizontally after it rights itself. Though the reporter was only a few feet away from where it landed and mostly saw her legs.
      • where it landed and mostly saw her legs.

        Soooo does this mean its a waste of money to throw into the womans locker room?
      • I saw a demonstration today on tv. It rotates horizontally after it rights itself

        Bugger - I thought maybe they'd use a fisheye camera and do the proper projection in software to make the unit more rugged (fewer moving parts in an impact-required instrument).

        But then IPIX would probably have sued them.
        • They didn't show it long, but it did look like it had a little bit of fisheye at the edges so I'm assuming the FOV is a bit wide but not too much. It seemed little less than my backup camera (which is around ~150 degrees horizontal), but like I said, they didn't show it too long.

          It was funny as the woman made some comment to the effect of needing a taller camera and that was all that was said about it. Just seems like an obvious problem in tight quarters.

          Though for all I know, you might be able to adjust t
          • It was funny as the woman made some comment to the effect of needing a taller camera and that was all that was said about it. Just seems like an obvious problem in tight quarters.

            Sure does - a full-hemisphere lens ought to work perfectly for this appplication. Here's a link to info about the patent [virtualproperties.com] controversy.
    • by Brain_Recall (868040) <brain_recall@yahooFREEBSD.com minus bsd> on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:01PM (#14230642)
      A mirror is of course a simple practical solution to the problem. But there are caveats. A mirror allows you to see around a corner, but it could also just as easily let the enemy know where you are (tilt it just wrong and it will be like a beacon). Not to mention a mirror is a tad bit fragile in a combat situation.

      The military has used other solutions over the years. The use of a spit-shined combat knife worked extremely well for this (as it was standard issue to all soldiers). Newer technology has allowed the military to mount cameras onto the barrel of their M-16 and a small heads-up display (much like some helicopter head-up gear) is used to view. It allows them to reach the gun around a corner and view the area and even aim and return fire if needed. The camera is multi-purpose since it also could switch to night-vision.

      The SWAT would probably like this more, as close combat allows them to bounce the ball around a corner and down a hall a little nicer. The ball itself is probably heavily weighted in one side (probably with the batteries) so that it would right-side-up.

    • even if you could the person who was going to shoot at you could just move.

      The best use of these things will be for rescuing people, not killing them. Being able to throw one of these around a potentially dangerous corner or through windows to see if there are injured or unconcious people inside could be invaluable.
    • back in my day when we wanted to see round corners we held up a little mirror and looked,

      That's nothing! Back in my day when we wanted to see round corners we tore out an eyeball and held it out to look!

      -- --
        War can make fundamentalists give up like 9/11 could make the US give up.
  • by katana (122232) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:27PM (#14230472) Homepage
    Law enforcement? Please. These things will be rolling into showers, changing rooms, and bathrooms about five minutes after they hit the market, with DVD sales following right behind (UPSK1RT!!!).

    Also, the word is "precede," if you mean "going first."
  • I think that's "...precede police into areas..."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > I think that's "...precede police into areas..."

      English as we learned it is dead, and a new one has arisen. Six months ago my nephew showed me an english assignment he was quite proud of (92%, third highest mark in the class), with only a couple of spelling mistakes picked out. His teacher had missed marking him down for "asaposed", "loose", "alot", "u" and "ur". It was hard to share in his joy when you know the teacher's english literacy levels don't stretch any further than SMS-speak.
  • From what I get these seem military use.. Surely if these "evil terrorists" have all this uber technology and use the internet for communication it would be extremely easy for them to see this news (here or else where) and start shooting them the second they see them comming..

    Maybe I'm just not seeing it but this to me screams "good idea, yet not".
    • it would be extremely easy for them to see this news (here or else where) and start shooting them the second they see them comming..
      For law enforcement, that is a far better scenario than the alternative, which is to send an actual person in to see what's going on, and have him/her get shot at.
    • Protect yourselves from new government throwabale WiFi camera technology with our new throwable anti-WiFi-Cam Shield! [amazon.com]
    • This is a recon device. When you want to know what is around a corner but do not want to stick you head around it. Mirrors work but still require you to be close.

      Imagine the following police situation. Shots have been fired in a house and the neighbours call the cops. When they arrive all is silent. So they can just knock on the door but that has the risk of getting a bullet in your chest. Instead of just waiting outside with a full swat team you throw one of these suckers through the window and see what i

  • Very good idea, but (Score:3, Informative)

    by AutopsyReport (856852) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:29PM (#14230490)
    It's a very good idea. But what if you toss the camera and it lands upside down? Unfortunately, you can't guarantee a good visual of your target. What would really be incredible would be a full 360 field of view with the same object. This was my first thought.

    This is where good journalism comes in -- it actually answers these questions for you. I had to search for the pdf [odfopt.com] which explained this. I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned first.

    • if there's a counterweight on the camera, and the camera is round and inside a plastic see-through ball, it can't be upside down. besides.. the recieving gear could just flip the image.
    • Chances are the ball's center of mass is not in the center of the ball, but offset in such a way as to cause the ball to settle at rest nearly right-side up for the camera. This would be a simple solution that would work on many surfaces, including most floors.

      Also, the article doesn't say, but it probably also has more than one camera inside so it can see in multiple directions at once.
      • But this assumes there is nothing obstructing the rolling of the ball. If you throw it, and it ends up beside something else, there is a good chance that it won't be right side up. I think that in practice, you'd probably get about 20% of throws giving a picture that is acutally useful. Now, if they had 6 cameras in the thing, each placed at 90 degrees to eachother, then they would have a much better chance of getting a good shot.
    • It's a very good idea. But what if you toss the camera and it lands upside down?

      I thought about this too, but I realized they could simply make the ball's mass off-balance so it natuarlly sits on its "bottom". That would cause the sphere to roll badly, but they seem to push the idea of throwing it. Since the ball is supposed to be able to rotate from a resting position, perhaps the balance mechanism is part fo this. It rolls fine when you want it, and with a push of a button shifts a weight to right itself.
    • Moving cameras (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lastberserker (465707)
      That's why you use cameras on wheels [umn.edu]. They can move, they can jump the stairs, they can be thrown, and better yet, they can be fired from a special cannon. Totally sweet :-)
      • Ahh, you beat me to it! The Scout was my first thought when I saw the story. It's a shame those aren't available for just anyone to purchase. I'd love to play with a few. I guess my only option is to go to UMN and get into that research program. Hmm.

        Any well-equipped police department or stalker should have a wall-climbing robot [engr.uvic.ca] or two [therobotstore.com] in their arsenal as well.
    • by Krach42 (227798) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:57PM (#14230617) Homepage Journal
      God, it's like the sibling posts didn't even bother RTPDF.

      Forget everything you're thinking that it MIGHT do. It has a centrally located motor, which allows for 360 degrees of rotation of the single camera. it doesn't need to counter balance roll to upright, besides, that would be a bad design, suppose the military is throwing it into a rough surface that will not allow it to roll.

      better to have the mechanical rotation mechanism that can rotate at 4rpm, and have a software or mechanical rotation mechanism to get the sensor to point "up".
    • It actually says right in the linked article that "When it comes to a rest, the ball stabilizes itself, then begins transmitting footage and sound," which makes it pretty clear it has some kind of self-orientating mechanism.
    • As it's a ball (the clue is in it's name), it could have a small weight at the bottom, or the logic would be placed all at the bottom, so it always would land bottom down. Well, this would be the cheap way of doing it :)
    • Not to worry... It uses the most advanced weeble [hasbro.com] technology.
  • $4800?!?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by sulli (195030) * on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:33PM (#14230504) Journal
    For that it had better bring the crooks back wrapped in duct tape. I remember someone made a tiny wireless camera [x10.com] for a heck of a lot less.
    • "For that it had better bring the crooks back wrapped in duct tape. I remember someone made a tiny wireless camera for a heck of a lot less."

      Um, if you throw the x10 camera and it doesn't orient properly (which it likely won't...), you've completely wasted your money. Yeah, you're much wiser with your money.
      • So tape 6 of them together. I'll bet a roll of duct tape *and* 6 X10 cameras would be enough less than $5K that they could be considered disposable. :)
    • I remember someone made a tiny wireless camera for a heck of a lot less.

      Cheap electronics won't do. This needs to be a milspec device. It also needs some heft to it. Given it's (para)military application I'd expect that its size/weight matches a grenade. How many homebrew projects can be thrown *through a closed* second floor window and have 99.9% reliability?
  • Strong Encryption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:34PM (#14230507)
    The article makes no mention of any encryption used. I suppose that you wouldn't want to use these for surveillance purposes, as they could potentially be located simply by intercepting and reviewing the perspective of the wireless signal.

    Want to locate the police? See things from their perspective and know where they're coming in. Yes, this technology sounds like a brilliant idea!
  • Law Enforcement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:37PM (#14230518)
    with law enforcement being likely buyers

    Because when one of these comes crashing through the window, the bad guys are just going to say: "Huh, I wonder what that was. Oh well." And then leave it alone. Right.

    I think a system like this one [uspto.gov] has a much better chance at successfully spying on the "bad guys."

    Posting anonymously because I work at a place that manufactures these, and even though it's patented, they still like to think it's a secret. Also, clearly not everything in the patent is in the actual system. "Interpreter Software" and "Intoxication Meter" in particular are amusing bits of the patent that aren't even possible to implement as described.
    • Using a power and communication cable from the command unit to the eyeball instead of wireless makes sense.
    • Because when one of these comes crashing through the window, the bad guys are just going to say: "Huh, I wonder what that was. Oh well." And then leave it alone. Right.

      Here's the scenario I envisioned.

      SWAT guy 1 *lobs ball*
      *crash*
      SWAT guy 2: "Hmm, let's see, I see what looks like the barrel..."
      *BAM*
      "Nevermind."

    • Why would an "extortionist" communicate with something other than a cell phone or land line? Using a camera phone tossed in by the cops for communication seems alarmingly stupid... and if the perp is that stupid there is probably a cheaper way to stop him....
  • I am so behind the times.
  • by east coast (590680) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:53PM (#14230597)
    Garrett called and he said he can help you with this, including a bionic eye. All he wants is for you to stop calling him taffer and chasing him all the time. Even a thief needs to make a living you know.
  • the bad guys are going to start practicing their golf swings.
  • Do these remind anyone else of the camera balls that the Tinkers used for their security systems in The Peace War?

    The ones in the book used some fancy optics to capture a 360 degree picture, and then post-processed it to let the user virtually pan-and-scan without the need for moving parts, instead of mechanically rotating the ball like these. And, of course, they were a lot smaller, were tacky instead of bouncy, had better power arrangements, and were deployed ubiquitously.

    But, still, this could be seen
    • Do these remind anyone else of the camera balls that the Tinkers used for their security systems in The Peace War?

      The general idea of a throwable, usually round camera or sensor ball has been in science fiction and various sci-fi games since the early 80s at least. Vernor didn't originate it, though he was one of the earlier people to use it in writing.

      They've been technically feasible for about 10 years now, and have been prototyped here and there. This is the first reasonably affordable production

  • ... sales for WiFi radio frequency jammers gone trough the roof.

    Seriously, they rely that the cam lands somewhere still in range for a WiFi connection, sounds like roulette to me. Throw it in a bin by accident and you can write your $4800 off...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mad Eye Moody wants his eye back.
  • I have a $20 camera here by my computer. It's made out of plastic and I can throw it pretty damn hard and it won't experience anything more than a couple scratches.
    Now granted, it's wired to my computer by a 20 foot cable, but making it wireless wouldn't take a lot of money. I'd say $50 ish tops.
    I certainly wouldn't want to spend more than $70 for a camera that I would use to throw around corners that might not even end up pointing in the right direction.

    And with these new suggested cameras, you still hav
    • I have a $20 camera here by my computer. It's made out of plastic and I can throw it pretty damn hard and it won't experience anything more than a couple scratches.:

      You can throw it thirty or forty feet? You can roll it like a bowling ball for ten or twenty yards? I really doubt that's true. Web cams aren't well known for their ability to take a lot of abuse. My old Logitech Quickcam Web survived a few minutes in my dishwasher (wrapped in plastic so I could diagnose a problem with the lower spray arm) but
  • Anyone else think this is similar to the visibility gadgetry in some FPSs, like the camera darts in Splinter Cell?

    It'd be interesting to see grenade cameras exactly like these in FPSs, hopefully we'll get that soon. Then we can test out all the mad sp10itz so the government doesn't have to. :)

    I'd vouch for the tactical usefulness short range visibility tech, but IRL I'd probably just run in to clear a room of terrorists, accidentally cycle to my cam-nade, bean a terrorist in the head with one, then die by
    • Splinter Cell? You console whore. Thief 2 did this first--a tossable surveillance eyeball. Yes, a mechanical eyeball, not a "dart". Thief is a "computer" game, not a console game, in case you wonder what else you can do with your PC besides post to Slashdot and download porn.
  • Not WiFi (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paul248 (536459) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:29PM (#14230780) Homepage
    I see nothing in the article or the datasheet to indicate that this is a WiFi camera. 802.11* isn't the only way to send stuff through the air.
  • Anyone with a cordless phone can wipe it out.
  • ...and I will build you one for much less.
  • At least... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Squidly (720087) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:38PM (#14231065)
    At least the didn't call it the iBall.
  • by TheRealDamion (209415) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:50PM (#14231117) Homepage
    These look and act exactly like the G'oauld devices used in many episodes of Stargate SG1. I can't believe I'm the first to mention this, maybe it's my threshold setting? Theirs are silver with no obvious camera lens, but otherwise look and are used in the same way.
  • if you only had one that would make it an eyeBall and would clearly be infringing Apple's intellectual property.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:28PM (#14231439) Journal
    This reminds me a bit of something I came across while online holiday-shopping the other day. Basically, it looks like Estes came out with a $80 rocket kit [amazon.com] which has a built-in digital video camera. The idea is that you launch it up into the air, recover the rocket, plug a USB cable into it to download the video, and then watch a rocket's-eye-view of the flight. The camera is in the rocket's nose, so you presumably only see the ground on descent. The camera is just 320x240 with 9fps, but it still seems pretty neat.
    • There have been other cameras like this one that recorded (photo or film) on regular film instead of digital. They looked sideways or downward with a prism. If you look closely on the pics at amazon, you can see part of the rocket body in the picture, so I guess this one looks down.
  • Now why dont they also add a small handgun in there with the eye as well? Let them throw the ball in their, and let the geek kid in the van do all the shooting. Come to think of it, why not use the camera and the gun on a 4x4 buggy? OK now I want to be police!
  • A camera custom designed for Steve Ballmer!!!

    "Tell me it's not Kodak........" ;)
  • Add some offensive capability to this and you have a passable version 1.0 of "Rover" [bookmice.net].
  • Oddly enough I read the FCC filing on this gadget for work earlier this week. It uses the 2.4 Ghz spectrum, but sends an analog signal -- not digital, which is what 2.4 is reserved for. Because it conflicts with the usage plan for 2.4 Ghz the only way the FCC would let them sell it was to specifically restrict it to law enforcement -- not merely government agencies. Personally, I wonder what will happen when these things are obsolete and sold at government surplus auctions, but at least for the next few
  • "The Eye Ball is a spherical, throwable WiFi camera designed to proceed police into areas where there's no direct line of sight". don't you mean "precede"

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