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The day Indiegogo promoted a SCAM: Triton Gills is now fully financed

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Have you heard of the Triton Gills? A device that would allow you to breath underwater for 40 minutes! It has been fully financed. For the second time. With Indiegogo’s blessing. A small detail: The product is a SCAM, and everyone except the backers are aware of it.

UPDATE: At the beginning of May (and after the time had run out) Indiegogo finally cancelled the campaign. 

The first  crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign went bananas – raising almost a million dollars in a couple of weeks. Shortly after, however, it had to be closed. Too many people were stating the obvious: There was no way on earth anything like the gills would work in the real world. Not only the technology didn’t exist yet, but the claims made by the creators were utter bull****.

"The holes of the threads are smaller than water molecules," they claim. An oxygen molecule is 3.9 Angstroms, and a water molecule is less than 3 Angstroms. Explain that, Triton!

“The holes of the threads are smaller than water molecules,” the team claims. An oxygen molecule is 3.9 Angstroms, and a water molecule is less than 3 Angstroms, but what matters here is that this “technology” is the same one they had to let go because it was proven inviable.

Backers cheered the unmasking, the money was refunded… and, what seemed like a victory for science, quickly became obscured by Indiegogo’s thirst for profit and disregard for ethics and life (things we didn’t really expect from the entrepeneurs who started the campaign, but I kinda did for a site that prouds itself in helping struggling families, sick children and amazing SCIENCE-BASED products).

The unexpected (if you still want to hold on to the belief that people cannot be THAT gullible) then happened. The Triton Gills came back with a new campaign. What had changed? Not much. Instead of “extracting oxygen from the water” (something that would require insane speeds and sci-fi processing capacity for such a tiny device), they now claimed to be using compressed oxygen canisters. This was done RIGHT AFTER the first campaign was closed, so… did they keep two products with completely different technologies at hand?

I won’t go over every single detail of WHY the Triton Gills were and still are a scam. You can find plenty of information online, as many have tried for months to get this nonsense to stop, in vain. Messages to Indiegogo were ignored, although the backers are going to take the Gills team to court once they, as we all expect, DO NOT deliver the magic product surrounded by secrecy they so skillfully promoted (not because of the product itself, as Indiegogo says they do not guarantee anything, but for allowing a fraud campaign to run for so long, a campaign that breached several of their rules such as “respond promptly and truthfully” and “do not scam.”)

Here are some of the voices that shouted SCAM when the first campaign went out, still valid for the second practically identical product:

To add to that, here are some updated scientific facts:

  • Standard scuba equipment uses compressed air, not oxygen. Oxygen is highly toxic by itself and needs to be mixed with Nitrogen and other gases for it to be breathable without killing you. So Triton switched from making an impossible abomination to a deadly abomination.
  • Liquid Oxygen has to be kept at a very, very high pressure in heavy steel containers in order to handle it safely (it’s extremely flammable, that’s why it’s used for example for welding.) So, whoever is supposedly supplying them should be making bombs instead – much better business.
  • If the canisters contained oxygen + nitrogen, according to the size of the container there would be enough for… about three full breaths. Quite far from the promised 40 minutes independence!
  • Exhalations in the first video appear as bubbles. If the gills are not capturing lung air to mix, the O2 will burn lung tissue.
  • The creators have shown two videos: In one, a guy is swimming in a pool, although the video is  not done with a single take but it’s edited every minute or so. Very believable. Especially considering they supposedly have a functioning prototype and have taken pictures on the beach. Why not show us that, right? In the other video, a guy (arguably the same one) is sitting underwater for 45 minutes, looking terribly bored. He does not move. There is plenty of space behind him to hide an oxygen tank, as others have demonstrated. Not calling this bull****, but… BULL****.
  • If the oxygen-whatever canisters existed, they wouldn’t be able to be carried on a plane, as this is forbidden per aircraft regulation.
  • … Every single piece of this device is virtually impossible, so PLEASE go ahead and google the science.

Here are some other proven facts, as I am no expert on the topic I can only analyse the previous with caution. But these, as an observant human being, do not escape my understanding:

  • Although they have claimed so, the creators have not filed a patent anywhere.
  • The creators have refused to reply to ANY question regarding how the product works, the risks of using the canisters or the fact that nobody but them have ever seen the working prototype.
  • Although assuring the canisters will be available worldwide, no scuba shops have been contacted.
  • The team is composed of a designer, an entrepreneur and a “marketing genius” (SIC) (Jeabyun Yeon, Saeed Khademi and John Khademi). No scientists were involved.
  • Although they claim they made their first prototype in 2014, that’s the time when Yeon made the CONCEPTUAL design and presented it to his university, as a student. The gills actually became fairly popular shortly after, so Yeon had to clarify there was NO working product, it was just an idea. This was around the time Saeed claims they were testing their gills in a pool.
  • Question and negative comments have been erased from the Indigogo page, or replied with insults. I don’t mind the broken English, but the messages sound terribly distant from the expertise the group claims to have.
  • Indiegogo has refused to stop the campaign (although it breaks their rules), or make a statement. They get 5% of the profits, so… hungry pockets.

Although I find the Triton Gills scam mildly entertaining and have follow its development for weeks, the damage it’s producing is ENORMOUS.

So, we have a designer, a salesman, and a marketing expert who claim they invented a device worth of four Nobel Prizes (impossible molecular filter extracting dissolved oxygen from water; micro compressor with the power of two trucks; mini battery powering it for 45 minutes, “30 times smaller and 1000 times faster than current batteries” [source]; and cheap Dewar flasks surpassing the evaporation rate of thousand-dollars laboratory cryogenic containers by three orders of magnitude), yet they have no engineer, no scientist, no technician, and no expert in cryogenics, chemistry, nanotechnology, or hyperbaric medicine. “Triton Scam” Indiegogo campaign

We have enough pseudo-science as click bait all around us, we really do not need a site like Indiegogo promoting this as well. Not to mention that this device is potentially DANGEROUS, and they are selling it for kids. And without ignoring the fact that Indiegogo takes no responsibility for what happens after the campaign closes and the creators are paid (which has happened JUST NOW). They do not guarantee a delivery, and they actually state in their legal notes that the users agree NOT to go to court (lucky for the buyers, the company is set in the US, so the clause is not valid. HA!). They also do not care if the product ever existed, because unlike sites like Kickstarter, no prototype is needed to create a project.

I’m sorry for those who spent 300 dollars a piece and will never ever see the gills or their money back. I’m also sorry for the real projects in there, that will undoubtedly suffer. This harms science, it harms crowdfunding and it could potentially endanger lives if they decide to deliver the monstrosity they claim to have. Which they don’t!

Ignorance is profit. Jeabyun Yeon, Saeed Khademi and John Khademi, I hope you cannot escape justice. And Indiegogo: You should be f****ng ashamed. 

yisela

UX Designer and Anthropologist, hardcore gamer, obsessive reader and improvised artificer of crafts. I cheated on population genetics with graphic design and since that the three of us have been living happily ever after. I enjoy writing little pieces on practically anything that catches my eye, but I lean towards those occasions when art overlaps with science.

3 comments on “The day Indiegogo promoted a SCAM: Triton Gills is now fully financed
  1. benteh on said:

    Wooooha! This is insane! What is the maddest thing, is that it has gone through, and they actually got the money. I like crowdfunding on a conceptual level, though there are a lot of rubbish there. I agree with you, I hope the backers sue them to hell and back, though it does not seem all that easy to do. Do we even know if these people are not pseudonyms?

    On the other hand, I must say I cannot help an evil snicker. People are ridiculously gullible. Do your research, people! If it sounds too good to be true, there is a likelihood that it is. One consolation though, is that I doubt that any backers have put their life savings into this. IndieGoGo might be on thin ice over deep water…

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    • yisela on said:

      There is a lawsuit being prepared, and it should be able to continue as Indiegogo is under US territory / law. Who knows, though. They will probably come up with excuses such as “manufacturer cannot complete the orders at this point” and elongate the wait until at least some people forget about it. I just couldn’t let this go, since I read and did the little research required, it infuriated me that all parties involved care only about the profit. About the names, funny you mention it, as I read one of the Khademis has a different one registered (but I can’t find a source for this now, so it might not be true).

      And about the gullible part… I have to agree, unfortunately. It pains me to think so many people have access to 300, 400 or 1100 dollars (the three plans they kept after they cancelled their $10 contributions to avoid negative comments) and are willing to spend them so… easily, without even reading the comments section (where the lawsuit is mentioned several times.) It’s a whole lot of money, that could go to worthwhile causes instead of these con-men’s pockets.

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      • benteh on said:

        Yes.. good point: the money could be used for so much more worthwhile stuff. It certainly will be interesting to see what happens, I trust you keep on top of it!

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