Ukraine forces get ‘bigger, better robo-balls’ than Putin after US firm donation

As the invasion of Ukraine intensifies, the world has been shocked by some of the high-tech gadgets Russian forces have used in the territory, from thermobaric artillery to hypersonic missiles.

One gadget in particular caught everyone's attention early last month, when it was revealed Russia has a set of pricey spy gadgets at its disposal.

The £18,500 'Sphera' is a ball-shaped imaging device which can be tossed into combat areas and, using four video cameras, gather pictures and audio for soldiers up to 50 metres away.

The kit is meant to be effective in temperatures as cold as -20C or as hot as +45C, and can be used in dense urban warzones.

The only problem? Russia allegedly ripped off their robo-balls from an American company offering something cheaper and better.

Bounce Imaging is an American company manufacturing 360° optical imaging balls. Its Recce 360 Mini cameras are used in both tactical police and military situations by both the US and UK military, NATO, as well as search and rescue squads.

CEO Francisco Aguilar believes that a Russian research institute got its hands on some of Bounce's cameras to make "a cr*ppy knockoff of our system and an older Israeli system".

Bounce's cameras boast much more powerful features than the Russian 'Sphera' at a much lower price point.

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Whereas the Russian versions have an "absurd" price tag of $20,000 (£18,500), Bounce charges roughly $6,000 (£4500) for a better solution.

Putin's robo-balls, for example, have no orientation technology in them, which means if they're thrown as intended, the video feed will 'tumble' or roll rather than provide a steady image.

Bounce Imaging's balls, on the other hand, use a system that stabilises their image feed, keeping things clear and upright even if the ball rolls over on the floor.

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This means operators can strap on a VR headset and look around a space in 360° degrees. They can also be attached to ropes or sticks and used to examine corners or hard-to-reach areas, or even active hostage situations.

The Recce balls were recently tested by the British Army's Household Cavalry Regiment in a number of combat scenarios during training in the US, and have even been donated to forces in Ukraine—meaning there could be a robo-ball showdown before we know it.

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