Controversial campaigns on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo aren’t all that uncommon. Such is the case with Triton, an Indiegogo campaign that raised close to $900,000 before skeptics in the scientific and diving communities prompted the company to refund all of the money it had raised thus far.
The original campaign, which launched in March, showcased what the company described as the world’s first artificial gills re-breather. With the device, Triton promised users could stay under water for up to 45 minutes at a maximum depth of 15 feet.
The campaign description said it was able to achieve this feat through the use of a microporous hollow fiber that’s able to extract oxygen out of the water. A micro compressor takes in and stores the oxygen, allowing wearers to breathe naturally under water.
That may be a satisfactory explanation for most but experts weren’t buying it.
Dr. Neal Pollock, a hyperbaric medicine and environmental physiology research associate at Duke University, told GearJunkie that you’d have to both run a lot of water through the product and have a means to separate it. Pollock questioned what entices the oxygen to go through the filtration system and ultimately concluded their given explanation wasn’t compelling. In short, he said he doesn't believe they have a chance of fitting all of the necessary components into the small device.
In a recent update on Indiegogo, the team behind the controversial product said they were reluctant to reveal too many details about the device in order to protect their intellectual property. They did, however, concede that the device utilizes swappable “liquid oxygen” cylinders which, combined with the other components, lets a user breathe under water.
The admission was accompanied by another video on YouTube showing someone using the device under water for 12+ minutes. That’s not quite the promised 45 minutes but it does seem to illustrate that it works.
There’s still room for controversy, however, as the wearer in the new video sits somewhat stationary during the entire clip. As such, it seemingly wouldn’t be too difficult to run an air tube up his back and into the mouthpiece. I’m not saying that is what’s happening here but a stationary camera and a stationary wearer doesn’t seem like the best way to dispel controversy.
Nevertheless, Triton refunded all of the initial backers’ money and launched a new campaign. Armed with this new information, the company doesn’t seem to be having too hard a time attracting interest as the campaign has already raised more than a quarter of a million bucks (it was initially sleeking just $50,000 to get the product off the ground).
As GearJunkie points out, the product may very well indeed be cool but initially misleading backers is difficult to look past. Fortunately, Triton did the right thing and came clean with their product. Now it’ll be up to consumers to decide its fate.