The video playing on the monitor has the feel of…

The video playing on the monitor has the feel of a first-person shooter game. The scene shows the view of the camera’s wearer as he and a handful of others in combat gear sit in the cabin of a helicopter flying low over the rooftops of a third world urban slum. Coming to a hover above a walled courtyard, operators kick the end of a thick rope out of the cabin door before each grabs hold and descends one after the other to the ground. On deck, all shoulder their weapons and move into a linear formation as they approach the nearest structure. At a door, the second man in the stack steps forward to slap a breaching charge on its frame and the group stages against the outer wall. An explosion rocks the camera and the men charge past the threshold to make entry. Here the view changes to show only the barrel of an M4 as its flash suppressor works to dim the flames of exiting rounds before they travel across the room and slam two at a time into the bodies of armed men. The camera stays with the weapon as it moves through other rooms and repeats the firing process until the shooter and his team yell, “Clear!”

Such was reportedly the view of the President of the United States and his National Security Council as they watched a joint U.S. Special Operations unit kill Osama bin Laden in his Jalalabad hideout. Video from the raid was said to have been streamed in near-real time from wearable cameras that are similar in function to the Contour+ and mounted in locations like the ACH-ARC rail of an OPS-CORE ballistic helmet and the Picatinny rail of an M4 handguard.


Contour cameras are rugged HD video cameras that were first developed to document extreme sports, but because of their image quality, compact size and available mounting options have become increasingly popular for law enforcement and military applications. Soldiers and police are now employing the technology to deliver unprecedented first-person footage of enemy engagements and law enforcement actions that document conditions on the battlefield for military commanders and present solid evidence in courtrooms.

Using simple controls, soldiers only need to mount the camera to their helmet, ear protection or ballistic plate carrier with the lens facing out then press a single button to start or stop recording.

Contour was started by two University of Washington students in 2003. Avid skiers, they were searching for a way to record their best mountain descents. Unlike other video cameras available at the time their Twenty20 Helmet Camera was unfazed by the frozen environment or the necessary hands-free descent through a slalom of trees, rocks, and snow. Building on this initial design, the two developed the ContourHD, the world’s first HD and 1080p hands-free video camera with an 8-hour video capacity, wide-angle lens, and software to share the video. A short time later they introduced the ContourGPS, which incorporated real-time GPS data while shooting HD.

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