Buyer Beware: The Oton
Earlier today, a post on the popular site Reddit, brought to light a supposedly fantastic console that should allow not just Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to shutter their doors, but every single video game developer out there as well. The Oton, a console that will cause many to recall the Phantom, is currently in a Kickstarter-like donation phase. The product touts automated game creation, allowing potential players to purportedly utilize a “Create Game” tab to procedurally generate a game. According to the Oton FAQ, the device possesses the ability to, “create over a quadrillion games, levels, characters, power-up configurations and all for free!” But if this seems like a pure flight of fiction, it gets better.
The Oton can play Android, Linux and licensed games. It seems that if you want the console to play a game badly enough, the Oton just might actually do it according to the designer’s website. Pledging for one of the various support tiers gets you, “a basic OTON unit [for] $179, a premium unit [for] $279 and a Supreme unit [for] $479 - only during our crowdsource phase. That’s a $100 retail savings per unit, but the basic unit does not come with laser projection camera. The premium unit comes with the laser projection, and the supreme OTON supports both laser projection camera and front-facing motion and voice camera.” This can also net budding programmers an Ubuntu 12.10 disc, which is little more than a distribution of Linux that can be downloaded online – and violates the tenets of being open source software – but, that may come with a copy of the Oton user interface for testing, but with it being planned as an autonomous operating system, why bother to learn programming on it?
Seemingly capitalizing on the popularity of the Ouya gaming platform, the Oton is making outright claims that even the least savvy buyer, game enthusiast or not, should be viciously concerned about. Assertions that not only the machine has top-tier hardware specs, but is already slated to have 12 – 25 games at launch, which shouldn’t be necessary if the console is capable of autonomous game creation, it’s enough to make anyone bat an eyelash. To make matters worse, key benefits listed with owning the system are free demos, full games, credits, cloud storage, no bandwidth hikes and support for both HTML5 and Android 4.1 titles, which again is laughable to say the least.
Claiming to have a, “a proven concept, that went through three years of iterations,” there is a warranted amount of skepticism about this product and for good reason. The product, despite statements of having a working prototype and functional software, isn’t necessarily shown in the EnGeniux demo video, instead showing clips from already well-known games. And despite being the brainchild of Derrick Samuels, supposedly a ten-year industry vet, there is little to nothing that can be found regarding any of his previous work. Most damning perhaps is the fact that, very much unlike Kickstarter, you are charged at the time of reservation, basically paying for an idea.
Even addressed again in the FAQ, the reservation charge proffers a poor excuse, “We have to charge your card in advance because all payments are immediately sent to the manufacturer after the 30 days to speed up the process. This is a very expensive project, and the quicker we can get suppliers paid the sooner we can get OTON into your hands. The quicker we get our contract manufacturer paid and ready to go, the quicker we can possibly meet our expected launch date. Our manufacturer has over 30 years experience in this space, and when we demoed the basic software they were amazed and aggressively snapped into action to help us move forward.” So, this logically leads one to wonder who the unnamed manufacturer is and why they aren’t disclosed in the FAQ. Offering more information, instead of less, is typically the best way to get a project funded. However, this comes off as much more of a cash grab.
Glancing through the Oton website begs significantly many more questions than it answers, especially when they’re pushing potential “supporters” to be charged for a product they, odds are, most likely will not receive by their tentative release date, again pulling from the FAQ, “We plan to finish the production of the basic OTON X in June 2013; we left enough time until the release to solve any unexpected problems. If needed, our talented team with diverse set of skills will do a great job in problem solving.” It smacks of a product meant to confuse or entice people who are in the know, but as P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Bottom line, backing any product on a relatively reputable site like Kickstarter doesn’t always promise satisfactory results. Inherently, risk and innovation go hand in hand, yet when someone looking to make a quick buck jumps on the bandwagon, offering the moon for a marginal fee, it’s best for everyone to simply avoid the snake oil and keep moving along.
Update: CEO of EnGeniux, Derrick Samuels, responded to my inquiry earlier today:
Full “press release” from EnGeniux below:
ENGENIUX INTRODUCES OTON THE FIRST AUTONOMOUS GAME CONSOLE
OTON - THE NEXT GENERATION CONSOLE FROM THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED IN THE 21st CENTURY!
ANNISTON, ALA. /Nov. 28, 2012 —- Today gaming will change forever! A new start-up called EnGeniux announced its next generation autonomous game console called OTON. The OTON console is the first system to automatically create games without human programming. The OTON platform is an enormous technical leap forward for game consoles. The system will create games autonomously using its built-in Game Creation Engine. Based on either the system or end-user protocol requirements, the system can produce unlimited game content nonstop. The system will possess the ability to create over a quadrillion game levels, characters and physics configurations upon launch, a new benchmark current or future consoles cannot match. “A new era in gaming is here and OTON will define the next true steps forward for game consoles,” states creator and EnGeniux CEO Derrick Samuels. “Can you imagine unlimited games with endless possibilities? Additionally, there are no monthly game subscription fees and all OTON created games are free!” The system’s artificial intelligence will also challenge the most elite gamers in ways never imagined with special physics and in-game challenges. OTON gives gamers unlimited OTON exclusive quality games forever, for free, for life! The start-up is seeking to crowdsource fund the project atwww.otonx.com.
The OTON technology has been under development for the last three years. OTON is powered with exclusive software built on top of a custom version of Ubuntu, which is called the Otonomous X operating system. The platform is the first console to ship with both a rear laser projection camera for gaming on any surface wall and a front facing camera for motion and voice input gameplay. A rear laser projection camera allows the system to double as game-anywhere unit or transform into low cost presentation device for end-users. The system will ship in three HD models that retail for $279, $379, and $579. Each unit will ship with an OTON game controller and accessories. The OTON system is the most stunning console ever produced, designed exclusively by Joseph Dumary, sensational internet graphic artist. OTON will ship in solid black, two-tone black and gray and a limited edition crowdsource white edition. Early supporters can grab an OTON console at a discount of $179 without camera, $279 with rear projection laser camera, and $479 with both rear camera and front motion camera bundled into one device.
The unit will ship with a Cortex A9 quad-core processor, 2 GB ram and 16 GB of flash storage. It will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and has no optical disc drive. Support for audio I/O — Line in/out/mic, S/PDIF in/out and support 2 SD ports with 3 USB and Ethernet port. Supporters of the project will get a free OTON preview disc powered by Ubuntu 12.10 in December 2012 to demo OTON with each OTON console donation. Derrick Samuels stated, “Our focus was to pack the most advance technology and innovation into this console to give gamers an experience in gaming never seen before.”
Game developers can earn 100% revenue from their games and build basic games or demo levels for free by using the OTON platform. OTON will also help developers create game trailers, demo levels and distribute upcoming game news to the developers’ social network. The multi-system will support Android games and open source games to provide a massive inventory of games. OTON is a sound economic solution for game developers. The OTON approach toward game development is from a new development vertical that focuses on saving developers money and yet increasing revenues with little effort. Another amazing aspect about OTON is it can take classic licensed games or characters and build new gameplay, levels and power-ups around these assets. The OTON creation can turn a 30 level standard 2D/3D game and create 100 plus new levels bringing unprecedented new value for gamers. Another innovation for OTON is it can convert your OTON console games into apps for your certified OTON mobile or table devices. “Think of OTON as a brain that makes calculated decisions and self independent game creations easier for amazing gameplay,” states Derrick Samuels.
Founded in 2012 by ten year entrepreneur, inventor and game veteran Derrick Samuels, EnGeniux startup is focused on delivering autonomous game and software solution applications.