Imagineering Ouya: The People’s $99 Console

Posted by Lisa Galarneau on November 11, 2013 in Editorial -- Share:

There is big launch news out concerning a new gaming console that will soon be available for just $99, which is a big difference in price from the $499 and $599 Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles on the horizon. The console is called Ouya and became a media darling a few month’s back when its Kickstarter initiative raised a huge amount of money.

I’m concerned that ‘cheap’ console will mean cheap gaming experiences and the focus definitely seems to be on arcade and platformer style games, which aren’t really my thing anymore. But it could be a viable option for some novel indie games, as it runs on the open Android operating system. There are already issues with shipping the consoles, but we can hope they get the kinks worked out.

Here is a review from Soldier’s Tech Battlefield:

 
This review seems to think that the console is a good idea, but that it doesn’t live up to its hype, at least not yet:

 
The launch news is a bit unsteady, but that doesn’t make us give up hope for the future. So in the spirit of imagineering, what niches could Ouya fill, and what clever entertainment products could developers come up with?

1. Entertainment/Media Console

This is a big component of Xbox One , in particular, and I think Ouya could be an exciting option. I currently use Roku device for my media, and as another cheap little device ($79-$99), it actually works extremely well. Easy to set up, no monthly fees, and there is a diverse range of mainstream and indie content. However there is one component of the media experience that I’ve really been missing.

I’m one of those people who likes to turn the TV on, and just have it push content to me. I love channels like HGTV and the Science channel, and will often keep them on for hours as I work or putter around the house. I find that too many of the content devices and services available (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.) all rely too heavily on the pull model of procuring content. I want a device that is smart enough to mine my readily available Internet history to understand what content I would like, and to push it to me in a stream. I have lots of ideas for how this kind of service could be enhanced: intelligent agents that sense what time of day it is and offer content that I would want to see at that time. Meaning, news or fitness shows in the morning, DIY/food/travel shows during the day, and movies or tv series in the evenings, then some nice meditation music before bed.

The key for me here is that I don’t want to have to think about what content I might like and do the work of procuring it – I think it’s a great job for software. Another aspect of the media experience that I still find really weak is the ability to discover new content through one’s social networks. Recently some friends of mine set up a Facebook group to discuss shows and other content they like. I think it’s great, because I think a lot of my friends have excellent taste. But it’s still too much work, in my opinion. Instead I imagine software that allows me to share links to content with my social circles (across media venues, YouTube, etc.) and have them share content with me. I’d like to be able to promote some friends as VIPs, meaning content they recommend automatically populates my stream, like a channel made up of content recommended by friends. ( GetGlueis a good start, but I’d like more direct links to content). I’d also want to be able to filter out content I don’t like, like a lot of the inane stuff teenagers seem to like that constantly floods places like YouTube.

Separating wheat from chaff is very difficult and means I often don’t find content that I would love. It shocks me that I have access to so many things and still often struggle to find things to watch (paradox of choice , perhaps, or so author Barry Schwartz would say). However I will watch just about anything that some networks provide (Bravo, etc.) if I don’t have to go hunting for it. I don’t even mind ads (in fact I sort of like them) as long as they aren’t too loud, banal or repetitive. Finally, the idea media device would also have excellent visualization options built in: videos, fractal generators, photo slide shows and the like. Again, I don’t want to have to configure it all, but to be offered quality and relevant options delivered at appropriate times according to my personal preferences and context. Being able to use my own photos is great, too, but even better if software can pick out the good ones for me.

2. Educational platform/Coach

As so many people still struggle with the notion of whether video games are a huge waste of time (especially for kids) I think it would be great to have educational versions of the Ouya that come bundled with all the best educational games and other cool learning objects. Again, the software should be smart enough to push relevant content based on personal preferences, so it can be age and interest appropriate. I’d love to sit down and tell the device ‘I’m in a learning mood’ or ‘I’m in a creative mood’ and have it push relevant content to me. It can also suggest apps to fill out my learning toolkit, like piano playing apps, or art instruction or virtual pet raising.

The Jumpstart educational virtual world could be a good option for Ouya:

 
Perhaps it could even benefit from Siri-like AI that serves up appropriate knowledge and learning suggestions.

3. Health and fitness box

I think this is a really exciting option. Versions of the Ouya (or profile shifts on one does-everything Ouya) could allow you to use it as a health and fitness box, ideally one that integrates content and apps with biometric options for measuring one’s fitness progress, just as Kinect or Fitbit do. It would be great to have a range of health and fitness options, including meditation and yoga, as well as more hardcore fitness training. The device tracks your progress and integrates with your mobile device, where you can use apps that track your food intake or sleep cycles, as an example.

4. Indie game nirvana

I’d love to see developers sink their teeth into the platform and provide a range of interesting options beyond standard arcade fare. One thing I’ve realized in recent years is that quality game experiences don’t require hardware heavy 3-d games: 2-d can still work really well when employed cleverly, and graphics can be simple, as well, as long as they are still created with a quality point of view. A few games I’d like to see on Ouya:

The Cave

 
Project Spark

Edna and Harvey

 

5. Developing societies entertainment and learning box

There have been some really interesting experiments these last few years that involve providing people in developing countries with low cost hardware and little instruction, to see whether non-English speaking people can use the devices (like the One Laptop Per Child Laptop). The results of these studies are stunning and as many people in developing areas manage to have TVs, this device could be an option to extend content and applications that the whole family can enjoy and benefit from.

India Hole-in-the-Wall computer system:

 
One Laptop Per Child (Ethiopian kids hack devices in 5 months with little English and no instruction):

 
What hopes do you have for Ouya? Let us know!

Written by

Dr. Lisa Galarneau is a socio-cultural anthropologist, futurist and games researcher. She's been playing video games since 1981 (Pong!) and loves adventure-style games, RPGs, online games, simulations and anything novel. Her love for games has been passed onto her gamer kid, and she spends a lot of time observing and pondering the future of games.

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