back to article Inventor lobs spherical, throwable camera

Imagine for a moment that you’re a fire fighter and want to know if your stream of water is hitting the hot spot. The fire prevents you from getting anywhere near your spurting jet’s landing point, so you spray and hope. Now imagine the fire fighter possesses a cheap, spherical, camera he or she could throw into the flames, …


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  1. LarsG

    If it can be stabilised in the air then great, but you'd see nothing if a spin bowler were to throw it.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      I think in the case of serious fast bowlers you would get some serious motion blur as well

      Neat device, nonetheless

    2. cortland

      Spin allows collecting more images, for a better view.

    3. Velv Silver badge

      I think you missed the whole point - it captures multiple cameras irrespective of the angle, then smart software to stitch them together as a stabilised image.

      So yes, perhaps if a spin bowler was to try and apply spin then it would struggle, but thrown normally it can cope.

    4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      I think it would handle the spin rather easily. I assume it uses technology similar to that used in DARPA's Samarai UAV by Lockheed which produces some rather impressive video considering it's little more than a single rotor blade.

  2. ratfox Silver badge

    Do you get bonus points…

    If you chose Pikachu?

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Not new though

    I think some army had these ages ago...

    If they don't like what they see they lob ones without a camera.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Not new though

      Here's some prior art:

      1. Chicken Marengo

        Re: Not new though

        Also, it looks like it's got some seriously rounded corners. That's just asking for a lawsuit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not new though

          I guess you don't have the 'balls' to sue them yourself?

          Now I'm going to settle down and listen to a load of balls being bowled on TMS

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not new though

        That's not prior art with respect to this patent.

        Mr Hollinger's patent is for HOW the thing works: "the processing unit instructing the camera to capture an image in response to an electrical signal generated by the at least one position sensor and the at least one orientation sensor. " -

        i.e, the frame rate of the camera isn't fixed, but is triggered by by position and orientation sensors.

        If you read through the patent, you will see a summary of prior related art and how his device differs.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Not new though, trival variation

          A trivial addition of software should never be patentable.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Not new though, trival variation

            What about a NONtrivial addition of software?

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Not new though

      I remember using them way back on "Thief 2"

  4. Robert E A Harvey

    well, good luck to him

    I applaud people working hard at a good idea.

    I really like the idea that the fire brigade or coastguard could lob a few of these about and get a good idea what they are up against. With that in mind, perhaps he should be interleaving IR cameras with visual light ones?

  5. George Nacht

    I wonder...

    I wonder if creators of Thief II: The Metal Age will get at least some credits.

    C´mon, Garrett fans, raise your voices!

    1. Roo

      Re: I wonder...

      Patents are for Taffers.

  6. stu 4

    interesting - but I'm sure something similar was out a few year ago

    Plus, for most of the possible use cases, a small quadcopter would be better.

    For example - the fire use case - has your 'spherical camera' landing in the middle of the fire - so you're gonna go through a lot of camera.

    With the new brushless gimbal controller that have just came out, footage from quadcopters (like mine) has become incredibly stable - stable enough that they can even be used with zoom lens camera for example.

    For example (no zoom but shows stability of footage):

    These can be built for around 250 quid now - are very easy to fly, and in most cases (e.g. search and rescue, fires, etc) would be far better than the spherical camera I'd have thought.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: interesting - but I'm sure something similar was out a few year ago

      Flying lightweight things over or near fire doesn't work well. The rising heat blows small craft all over the place in a highly unpredictable fashion, far faster than onboard stabilization systems can cope with. The same is true of full size craft too. Fire is hard to fly around.

  7. Alan 6

    Nice idea but

    most fire brigades would just point a thermal camera in the direction of the fire and it'll see right through the walls and show where the cooler water is dropping onto the hot flames.

    1. Gideon 1
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nice idea but

      Thermal cameras can only see through walls in Hollywood films, not in real life.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Nice idea but

        Demolition Man was a documentary, damn you!

      2. Alan 6

        Re: Nice idea but

        You sure about that?

        Thermal cameras show differences in temperature, the wall will be pretty hot due to the fire, and the stream of water will be cold, leading to a huge difference in temperature, which will show through the wall, it won't be a high resolution image, but it will show if the water is hitting in the right place.

        Disaster recovery teams use thermal cameras to find survivors after earthquakes and building collapses, a living person will show through a fairly big pile of rubble when using a cooled sensor thermal camera...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Nice idea but

          For the fire scenario, you're forgetting the rest of the blaze going on which can cause incidental heating of the surrounding area. Also, the fire itself is usually at temperature beyond the useable range of IR systems (think over 1000 degrees when its high end is in the 500s). This would mean that most of the house is in the high end of the scale if not beyond it, even when you start getting the water down, so IR may not get you a quick-enough reaction. Plus, infrared has one nasty quirk—it doesn't transmit well through glass.

          IR is used in rescue scenarios that don't involve fire because the buildings in the other cases are cool, making human body heat stand out on the person and whatever they touch. They're also handy for people lost in wooded areas or around water (or in inclement weather). I'd be curious to know its utility in avalanches.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Nice idea but

            >IR is used in rescue scenarios that don't involve fire because the buildings in the other cases are cool, making human body heat stand out on the person and whatever they touch.

            There was a recent example of a IR-equipped quadropter being used by a fire brigade in England this year, to find (and successfully rescue) a person from a fast-moving flooded river.

          2. Gideon 1

            Re: Nice idea but

            Even very hot fires emit lots of thermal radiation in the long and medium wave IR bands. Have a look at Planck's law.

        2. Gideon 1

          Re: Nice idea but

          Yes, I'm sure, my work is developing thermal cameras. Thermal cameras show thermal radiation, from which actual temperatures can be inferred, not just differences in temperature. Walls and glass windows are opaque to thermal wavelengths, the wall will show a cold patch if the cold water is directly hitting and cooling the wall.

          The heat from a person gradually spreads through the rubble through both conduction, convection and draughts. Thermal cameras can resolve very small temperature differences, in the order of 10s of milliKelvin, allowing you to see these effects.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Nice idea but

            "the wall will show a cold patch if the cold water is directly hitting and cooling the wall."

            Unless there's another fire between you and the wall you're actually trying to hit. Firefighters trying to attempt a rescue will want to focus their water efforts on creating a rescue lane to allow them to reach people trapped inside (to firefighters, people come before property). The further in you go, the less one can rely on direct line of sight, which is there having an eye further inside may be of use (you can throw it in before it's deemed safe for actual people to go in). This also has an advantage over a quadcopter in that it has no trouble with confined spaces.

          2. Alan 6

            Re: Nice idea but

            And I've seen demonstrations of Flir K-series kit being used for just this purpose, they can read up to 650°C and are normally used for finding the hot spots of a fire to see where to attack first.

  8. Shaun 2

    Why is it not called "The Kino"?

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Extra kudos to Mr Hollinger...

    ... for including a 'skip intro' link on the video. That was very civilised of him. The number of times I've had to manually skip through an overly 'arty' product video just to get to the gist of how it works is ridiculous.

  10. Craigie


    I read that twice as 'Squinto'.

    The video shows it to be a much more sophisticated device than I'd thought it was from the article. Also, he has a really cool 'I'm an inventor'-looking workshop.

    Good luck to him.

  11. Don Jefe

    New Hampshire

    The U.S. government has been messing with this stuff for years at the Arctic Research Support and Logistics facility in New Hampshire. They are dropped from low altitude aircraft though and they don't have the software stitching, they do have microphones though and destroy themselves after the batteries run low.

  12. knarf

    Hand Grenages are more effective

    Why lob a camera when you can lob a grenage instead and you don't have to worry about getting sniped when you go and get it.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Hand Grenages are more effective

      I know they say fight fire with fire, but to be honest if your house is ablaze water will work better...

  13. BrentRBrian

    Oh please, no

    It is SHAPED LIKE AN APPLE ......

  14. Suricou Raven

    Bad example.

    Radio doesn't work very well in fire. Fire is, surprisingly, actually a conductor of electricity. Test it if you want - get a flame and poke multimeter probes into it, measure resistance. Blue flame works better.

    You can get voice through, but high-bitrate digital isn't going to be at all reliable.

    1. Gideon 1

      Re: Bad example.

      It would take a very large amount of fire to attenuate the radio signal, e.g. earth atmosphere re-entry plasma.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cricket? Fires?

    Nope, I wanna see tennis balls made from this.... so when the lush Czech girlies shove the spare balls down the top of her knickers...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cricket? Fires?

      I should of downvoted that but....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cricket? Fires?

        Downvote or upvote or just upskirt :)

      2. DRendar

        Re: Cricket? Fires?

        I should of downvoted that but....

        Have a downvote for "should of".

        1. Pie

          Re: Cricket? Fires?

          Thanks, I wouldn't want to offend you any more so I will stop posting.

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