Francisco Aguilar's Explorer Saves Lives

January 26, 2016

When former Belfer Center International and Global Affairs Student Fellow Francisco Aguilar learned about the challenges facing responders during Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, he got an idea that could potentially save lives in the future. His idea, which took him to the White House this summer, was to develop a small and inexpensive tactical camera device that “spots danger,” as the White House put it, “before soldiers and first responders walk into it.”

President Barack Obama invited Aguilar and other entrepreneurs to the White House to showcase their inventions at its first entrepreneur day, and invited a number of business, philanthropic, and non-profit leaders to meet the entrepreneurs and learn firsthand about their innovations.

Aguilar’s invention was prompted by his belief that many more lives could have been saved in Haiti if search and rescue teams had been able to determine more quickly whether it was safe to proceed into a disaster zone. While there were at the time some fiber-optic cameras available to search through rubble and dangerous sites, they were too expensive and complicated for extensive use.

Aguilar founded Bounce Imaging with his sister, Carolina Aguilar, to develop low-cost, throwable sensor cameras that provide omnidirectional images of hazardous, unseen spaces and transmit the information to a user’s smartphone. The softball-size device, called Explorer, can be used by police officers, firefighters, and other first responders to see around a corner, inside buildings, or down a tunnel or sewer system. It was sent this summer to 100 police departments across the U.S.

Aguilar is currently focusing on making his device even more affordable. He wants it to be accessible to authorities and safety teams in developing countries so disaster relief can occur more quickly.

Aguilar’s company, based at the Harvard Innovation Lab, was named a Gold Winner at MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator in the world.

bounce ball camera

Francisco Aguilar's "bounce camera" can provide omnidirectional images of hazardous spaces before first responders walk in.

Aguilar’s invention was prompted by his belief that many more lives could have been saved in Haiti if search and rescue teams had been able to determine more quickly whether it was safe to proceed into a disaster zone.


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