The “pups,” as low-grade sociopath and geologist Fifield calls them, are a set of spheres that float around and spatially map the surface contours of a given space in real-time.
To activate them, Fifield twists their hemispheres 90 degrees along their equator, and they begin to glow red along two red rings.
When held up for a few seconds, they rise to the vertical center of the space they are in, and begin to fly in different directions, shining laser in a coronal ring as they go.
In this way they scan the space and report what they detect of the internal topography back to the ship, where it is reconstructed in 3D in real time. The resulting volumetric map features not just the topography, but icons (yellow rotating diamonds with last initials above them) to represent the locations of individual scientists and of course the pups themselves.
The pups continue forward along the axis of a space until they find a door, at which they will wait until they are let inside. How they recognize doors in alien architecture is a mystery. But they must, or the first simple dead-end or burrow would render it inert.
The pups are simple, and for that they’re pretty cool. Activation by twist-and-lift is easy through the constraints of the environment suits, easy to remember, and quick to execute, but deliberate enough not to be performed accidentally. Unfortunately we never see how they are retreived, but it raises some interesting interaction design challenges.