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Photo finish: Sloanies team up to create Bounce Imaging

Low-cost camera targeted for first responders, military
David Young MBA ’13 (left) and Francisco Aguilar MBA ’12.
David Young MBA ’13 (left) and Francisco Aguilar MBA ’12.
Photo courtesy of BostInno

David Young MBA ’13 never dreamed that co-teaching an Independent Activities Period (IAP) class on military leadership would lead to the creation of a device that could save lives. But it did.

Bounce Imaging was incorporated in April, just a few months after Young met Francisco Aguilar MBA ’12 in the IAP class, “Leadership Lessons Learned from the Military.” Aguilar interviewed Young, an Army Captain now in the Reserves, for his master’s thesis at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, but the conversation focused mainly on a baseball-sized, low-cost camera Aguilar was designing.

Aguilar’s inspiration for the idea was born after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Although he was not in Haiti, Aguilar knew that people were trapped in the rubble, and that search-and-rescue teams could not easily find their locations due to the complicated fiber optic cameras they had. He knew there had to be a better way to find the victims — and that’s when the idea came to him for a throwable, ball-shaped camera.

“Francisco asked me about the camera,” Young says. “I immediately thought it was a great idea for many different situations — especially for first responders such as police, EMS and firefighters.”
Young and Aguilar worked together to create an affordable camera that transmits photos and data to Android devices, such as cellphones and tablets. The device is small and has six cameras inside that take panoramic images. Built-in sensors can also detect hazards such as radiation and fire temperature, as well as carbon monoxide and oxygen levels. The images and data are then transmitted together to the Android device for analysis. Young said the camera can be made with different applications to meet the needs of those who work in dangerous situations.

“This device is great for first responders because they can easily and safely assess a situation. It will cost about $500. Most other camera devices cost in the thousands so this will be affordable to many,” Young says. “If the situation is dangerous, and the camera cannot be retrieved, it’s not the end of the world because it’s not expensive.”

The two are working on a prototype to be ready in early 2013, but after they won $50,000 in the 2012 MassChallenge Competition, and $10,000 in the VenCorps NYC Impact Challenge, interest in the camera took off. Bounce Imaging has been featured in numerous media outlets including New Scientist, Wired, The New Zealand Herald, BBC and NBC. Time magazine named it one of the best inventions of 2012.

“People who have heard about it want to buy it — and we’ve only had word-of-mouth marketing so far. Organizations from all over the world have expressed an interest in Bounce Imaging because they know it can save lives,” Young says. “We had a search-and-rescue worker from California contact us because he believes this device can be a game changer for people in his field. This validates our idea. We’re really motivated by the idea of helping people and saving lives.”

Aguilar and Young have partnered with Haverhill Hardware Horizons Challenge (H³C) — the New England region’s first technology startup competition focused on developing innovative technology products — and with Lightspeed Manufacturing for their manufacturing needs.

“They have been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about our idea,” Young says. “They are willing to help us get started and will provide us with many services. It’s also great that they’re in the local area. We hope to start selling the product in the fall of 2013.”

Young added that many in the MIT community have been supportive of Bounce Imaging, including the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and the Media Lab.

“When I came to MIT Sloan, I didn’t think I would start a company,” Young says. “Creating Bounce Imaging with Francisco is really a testament to what a great place MIT is. There are so many resources and opportunities available here for entrepreneurs. It’s just phenomenal.”

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