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[] Wired News: Rolling Camera Eyeballs Danger,1848,67329,00.html

Rolling Camera Eyeballs Danger  
By Abby Christopher

02:00 AM Apr. 29, 2005 PT

Imagine being on a SWAT team charged with disarming violent crooks in a
meth lab, and knowing that every year, more than 50,000 law enforcement
officers are assaulted.

It might be comforting to begin your raid by sending in an Eye Ball R1, a
remote-controlled, spherical camera about the size of a baseball that can
give its users a 360-degree look at the device's surroundings.

"The Eye Ball provides safety by providing law enforcement and military
personnel with higher degrees of visibility and insight into their
environments," said Asher Gendelman, spokesman for Remington Technologies,
a new division of Remington Arms, which has an exclusive license to the
technology and will manufacture the device.

The Eye Ball can be tossed into potentially dangerous situations and
deliver real-time audio and video via a wireless link to officers who want
to get a quick view of what they're walking into.

The camera is rugged enough to be dropped from a two-story building or
thrown hard onto a concrete floor or into any space where police or
soldiers want to pursue suspects, serve warrants, locate hostages or
search for contraband.

"If you're pursuing someone who may have hidden in an attic or a crawl
space, cabinet, a basement or parking garage -- a lot of policemen are
assaulted when they pop their heads in, without knowing where the suspects
are," said Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Officers Research
Association of California and a San Diego police officer.

The Eye Ball is controlled by a wireless remote control about the size of
a large PDA. Using the control unit, which has a color display, officials
can manipulate the camera to get a view from any angle they want -- to
check out a space where they believe suspects may be hiding or explosives
may have been planted.

The camera has a three-hour battery life, can rotate at four revolutions a
minute and capture 55-degree horizontal and 41-degree vertical views. The
camera is built into the top half of the device and can be rotated, while
the base of the Eye Ball remains static once it has landed. If the Eye
Ball lands upside down, officers can flip the video feed. Using a
video-out port in the remote control, video and audio can be saved to tape
or DVD for use as evidence.

The camera can gather information on the number of entrances and exits,
barricades, tripwires and even the state of mind of hostages. It can be
attached to poles and ropes and dangled into stairwells where law
enforcement officers are often especially vulnerable to attack. The
control pad also activates the Eye Ball's near-infrared night vision for
after-dark operations.

"You never know what's going to happen on the job," said Cottingham. "Two
uniformed police officers responding to a domestic-disturbance call
earlier this year were shot and killed just walking up to the house. The
more information they have before going into a volatile situation, the

Although the main users of the Eye Ball are expected to be law
enforcement, the device might also be useful for other first responders --
firefighters, emergency medical technicians and search-and-rescue teams.

"We thought about 9/11 and the tsunami," said Gendelman.

The Eye Ball is being tested by more than 20 law enforcement agencies.  
Some agencies that already use robots, which can cost upward of $160,000,
are arming their expensive droids with Eye Balls to protect their
investments, Gendelman said.

"Instead of throwing it, we've seen some officers moving the Eye Ball
around on one of those little wireless cars you can get at Radio Shack,"  
he said.

The Eye Ball will sell for about $1,500 when the device goes on sale later
this year, pending regulatory approval.

The company has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission
to use wireless spectrum for audio and video and for controlling the
camera, and expects approval by June.

If Remington gets the go-ahead, the company will sell the Eye Ball
directly to the Department of Defense and other government agencies,
search-and-rescue teams and state, federal and local police departments.  
The company will not sell the Eye Ball to individuals.

Remington has an exclusive license to the technology from Ehud Gal and
Natan Merom, two Israeli computer-vision engineers and co-founders of Odf
Optronics, a research-and-development firm specializing in vision-based
products for defense and security applications.

The inventors -- both former military R&D officers in their native Israel
-- dreamed up the idea because existing periscope-like technologies used
in tanks limited the view to 270 degrees at best. This made soldiers and
their vehicles vulnerable to surprise attacks.

Gal and Merom originally designed a camera that could be mounted onto
military vehicles, poles and structures but could also be remotely
manipulated. They later expanded the camera's use by making it tossable,
rollable and tough enough to withstand battlefield conditions.

Not everyone likes to talk about the new technology, though.

"We don't want to tip off criminals about what new equipment or strategies
we might be using," said a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
in Alberta. Several officers from Alberta's K Division were killed in
March when drug dealers were tipped off that officers were on their way to
their farm with warrants to search the property.


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