But one look in the eyes of the Envizion CEO tells the story — a dream that began with $5 contributions from friends and family members. The support allowed him to create a video game console, and now he aims to create a system that can be enjoyed worldwide.
The negative remarks only help to fuel Samuels’ drive to make the best possible console he can.
“We got a bad rap because people didn’t realize the original EVO was not intended to be mass distributed,” he said. “It was a stepping stone to the new machine.”
Terrence Johnson, director of operations, said some people don’t take the company seriously because of its location.
“People see Anniston and dismiss us immediately,” he said. “Outsiders don’t realize that we work just as hard as the big gaming companies.”
Samuels is the first to defend his city and wants Annistonians to rally around Envizions.
“We want to get the community involved as much as possible,” he said. “We want to create jobs and provide educational tools to local schools.”
Inside the beast
Walking into the demonstration room revealed an immediate surprise — an Android version 2.2 on a monitor. The lone difference was a mouse cursor created to replace the normal touch control method.
Samuels had to point out the EVO2 unit resting on the table next to the screen. The machine is small and compact. The professional appearance and sleek design fits right in with other consumer products you’d connect to your television.
Johnson maneuvered around the menus, stopping to show off how fast the EVO2 can load different media. The machine can load music, photos and videos in mere seconds.
Envizions’ new technology, called GameBox, powers the storage component of the console. A client can also be downloaded on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms to save computer files.
Samuels demonstrated the speed on his laptop. A single click to upload a file and within seconds, it’s in the cloud. The whole process happened in the blink of an eye.
“We are all about cloud computing with the EVO2,” Samuels said. “I feel like cloud storage and gaming go together.”
Cloud computing is a term for pulling data off a server using an Internet connection. This method is less expensive because a hard drive is not required.
Then it was time to game.
Johnson loaded up Angry Birds to show me how it compares to 10 other iterations I’ve played.
The EVO2 loaded the game in less than 10 seconds.
Maneuvering around the menus was problem-free using the EVO2 remote control. Every click and movement was fluid and felt smooth. Quite a feat for a game designed for touch controls.
I was a little concerned about actual in-game controls though, as the title requires precision. Again, the EVO2 remote worked exactly as it should. I was able to fling my angry birds just as easily as on the iPad.
The game looks fantastic when output at 1080P. The image is not stretched at all.
A baseball game was next on the docket, one that I have played quite a bit of on iOS devices. The image was once again crystal clear. Controlling the action on-screen was fluid and solid.
Envizions has plenty of exclusive games in development stage. These titles will take advantage of the modified operating system.
“We have platforming, shooters and more in the works,” Samuels said. “There will be a little bit of everything on the EVO2.”
Bringing people together
Samuels’ vision has always included a large social and community presence.
“I wanted to create a gaming console with a social conscience,” he said.
Twitter and Facebook are all that’s needed for many these days, but they didn’t quite fit the criteria of Samuels’ plan.
Thus, Qquip was born.
Qquip is a social site that works a lot like Twitter. The biggest difference is a rewards system that awards points to users. These points can later be redeemed for free downloads of certain games.
The service also features a trivia game. Users who correctly answer questions will receive a bump to their points total.
“We wanted a site that would reward people for something they are already doing,” Samuels said. “Why not post from our site and earn prizes instead of a simple Tweet?”
One in a million
Envisions also wants to help ease the pain caused by the April 27 tornadoes.
The company has announced its 1 Million Dreams Campaign, which aims to provide a free EVO2 to storm victims.
“We want the community to rally around those that lost everything in the tornadoes,” Johnson said.
The premise is simple. Purchase an EVO2 and Envizions will donate a console or tablet to a needy child for Christmas.
The company is extending the campaign to cover abused and neglected children.
The goal is quite a lofty one, but Samuels feels confident the campaign will take off.
“We have families that have nothing right now,” he said. “With all that is going on, many have no idea how they are going to handle Christmas this year.
“We’re thinking about it for them.”
Life after EVO2
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) showcases the biggest game developers and their newest consoles and games. This year’s show proved that most companies are content with the hardware they already have on the market.
In fact, console manufacturers have stressed the importance of extending this generation for as long as possible. Many internal Microsoft employees predict the Kinect product will double the life of the Xbox 360. Nintendo was the only company to introduce a new home console machine — the WiiU.
So why are companies waiting so long?
“Nobody knows what the next big thing in gaming will be,” Samuels said. “Companies are taking small steps so that money and resources are not wasted.”
Samuels is following the same school of thought as he prepares for the successor to the EVO2.
“We’re hoping to have the next console release about the same time as the next PlayStation and Xbox,” he said.
The EVO3 is planned to have a continued focus on the Android Operating System. Envizions has no plan to abandon the format fans are used to.
All other features will be held close to the chest. Samuels doesn’t want the competition to know his secrets.
For now, Envizions is working to make the EVO2 the best console they can.
“It’s hard being the underdog,” Johnson said. “But in the end, it just drives us to work even harder.”
Processor: Samsung 1.2 GHZ processor
Operating system: Modified Android 2.2 (FroYo)
USB: 3 ports
Bluetooth: Yes (Keyboard/Mouse)
Retail price: $249.99 (includes controller, remote and HDMI cable)
On the Net
Envizions website: www.envizionsinc.com
1 Million Dreams Campaign: http://bit.ly/m8LpIS