It’s been almost eight years since a younger version of myself first reported on the Panono: a camera covered ball that snaps 360-degree photos when tossed in the air. It’s been a bumpy ride for the Panono since then, and even a bumpier one for those who purchased and actually received their cameras as yesterday the company announced new fees for anyone actually wanting to use it.
A couple of years after its reveal in 2011, and after we were able to go hands-on with a prototype in late 2013, the creators of the Panono launched a successful Indiegogo campaign that managed to raise over $1.2 million, despite the camera ball selling for $600. Three years after that, production units finally started shipping to backers, but just 400 made it out the door when some 2,608 people backed and pre-ordered the device via Indiegogo. In May of 2017, the company’s co-founder, Jonas Pfeil, confirmed that the company had filed for bankruptcy, but that all its assets were being sold to Bryanston Group AG, a Swiss-based private equity firm who started a new company that would continue to support the product, as well as the cloud servers needed to process the images it captured.
You can still buy the Panono camera ball, but its price tag now sits at around $2,400, which is apparently still not high enough to keep the venture as profitable as Bryanston Group AG had hoped for. The Panono, which features 32 camera modules that each snap a photo at the same time, in all directions, when the ball is tossed in the air, requires special processing software to generate a 360-degree panoramic image. All of the processing is handled by the company’s powerful servers, which, up until now, was a service included with the cost of the Panono. But in an email sent to users, which Nico Goodden shared on Twitter, the company revealed that starting September 1 it would start charging users €0.79, or about $0.88, for every photo processed by its stitching services.
Panono has also updated its terms of service to reflect its new business model.
This is not only a problem given the product was sold with the stitching service included as part of its steep price tag, but also because there is no other software that can properly process and stitch the unique images captured by the Panono’s camera array. Trying to use other software tools to create a 360-degree panorama from the Panono results in errors and artifacts that ruin the experience. If users don’t pay up, their Panono experience will finally come to an end. But given all the drama over the years, it might be finally time to cut their losses and say goodbye once and for all.