A few years ago, a company named Panono came by The Verge offices to show us a strange black and green ball. It looked like a kids toy, but it was embedded with 36 cameras that, when thrown in the air, would snap a 360-degree panorama / selfie from way up high. It was a neat idea, but it’s apparently failed to pan out in a really big way.
After raising $1.25 million in a crowdfunding campaign at the beginning of 2014, Panono has only shipped around 400 cameras, according to DPReview. It’s not clear exactly how many cameras were ordered, but the project had just over 2,600 backers; cameras were sold for $499 individually, and much more expensive bundles were available.
Not only has Panono failed to ship most of its products, but DPReview reports that the company filed for bankruptcy in May and just this week announced to backers that its assets have been purchased. Gizmodo reports that it was bought by an investment firm called Bryanston Group.
The somewhat good news to come out of all this is that Bryanston said in a press release, reported by Gizmodo, that the company “feel[s] morally obliged to find a solution that all early supporters of the Panono technology will be able to enjoy the camera as soon as possible after so many years of waiting.” So perhaps, eventually, the rest of Panono’s backers will get a camera. That said, the company isn’t legally obligated to get anything to backers, so they’ll still have to keep hoping.
Bryanston also says that it intends to maintain Panono’s panorama hosting platform and even release new products and services “within the next months.” It seems that the Panono name is going away though, with the company being rebranded as Professional360.
Even if backers do eventually get a camera, the big downside to all of this is that 360-degree cameras are nowhere near as unique as they were just three years ago. There are now tons of 360-degree cameras offered at much more affordable prices than the Panono. Some phones are even being made with 360-degree camera attachments, which seem a lot more useable than a ball.
That all makes Panono another example of a seemingly well-prepared crowdfunding campaign failing to come together in a way that badly leaves backers behind. This has happened time and again over the past couple years — like Plastc, the credit card replacement that disappeared earlier this year after raising $9 million, or Lily, an autonomous drone that failed this year after raising $34 million. So really, be cautious when backing a crowdfunding campaign, especially if it requires a big investment.