back to article Drone biz Lily Robotics takes $34m in pre-orders, ships nothing, shuts down, gets sued by San Francisco DA

Lily Robotics says its decision on Thursday to shut down and return pre-order payments for a never-delivered drone, which came on the same day that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón charged the company with false advertising and misleading business practices, was purely coincidental. "We had been in the process of …

How does my credit card issuer fit into this story?

I wonder?

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Re: How does my credit card issuer fit into this story?

Depends where you live.

In the EU they are jointly and severally liable, so as a consumer you get your money back from the credit card company - and they can go ahead and do whatever they deem appropriate to recover their loss from the vendor.

In many other parts of the world it's not as clear cut.

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Re: How does my credit card issuer fit into this story?

If it's RBS then probably right at the middle of it...

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Re: How does my credit card issuer fit into this story?

Tried this but due to it been paid to tilt in the fist instance and the time scale involved they won't let me claim my loss back. Now I don't think I will get my refund because the system will look after the banks before the hard working public.

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Sounds like incompetence then?

Some deceit, clearly, on the video, but to shut down with $25m+ now frozen in the bank suggests either a genuine intention to deliver thwarted by inability or a substantial fraud not quite completed.

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Re: Sounds like incompetence then?

They took customers money on the promise that they wouldn't spend that money on development, they then borrowed against that money to fund development, this is the same as spending the money by proxy.

If the DA was sure there was enough money in the pot to pay back the loan and refund the customers and pay off the employees etc. he would have allowed them to wind down, because he couldn't be sure of that outcome he has no choice but to shut them down and cut the losses.

The idea behind Kickstarter was to crowdfund the economic manufacture of an already functioning product not as risk capital to develop a new one.

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It was obviously faked

If you look at the video, you will see no obvious camera hole, indicating that the camera stabilising mechanism is inside. Fair enough. But if you have ever seen, for example helicopter shots of outdoor events such as the Tour de France or motorsports in the rain, you may have noticed faint traces moving around - water droplets on the outer casing moving with the motion of the helicopter and appearing erratic to the stabilised camera. There was none of that. Absolutely no trace of any form of image distortion from being shot from behind some sort of plastic casing. So, to my eyes, there didn't seem to be any way the drone pictured was able to create the images purported to be from a Lily.

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FAIL

Re: It was obviously faked

There is a clear opening in the case.

And if it is so "obviously faked", why did you only spot it after you read about it?

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Re: It was obviously faked

He wasn't the only one. In the multicopter forums we all saw this for what it was - utter shite - clearly not shot on their 'drone'.

Some of us even tried to get the word out.

But the fuckwit media didn't want to know and lily drone got headlines all over the world - leading to 60K people (who inexplicably still trust the media) placing orders.

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Re: It was obviously faked

"And if it is so "obviously faked", why did you only spot it after you read about it?" - that's quite a leap there. I actually spotted it months ago when I watched the video on YouTube.

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Don't buy vaporware

Wait until there's something on the shelf. You will miss "early bird discounts" for sure, instead you'll get a device from a choice of vendors in a commoditised market space, and likely pay less.

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Re: Don't buy vaporware

I wonder what the world would look like if nobody was prepared to put up substantial amounts of money based on nothing more than an idea.

I for one would not have had a career in software.

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Re: Don't buy vaporware

There's a huge difference between taking money from an investor and taking money from customer pre-orders. Investors do as much due diligence as they can before deciding whether to back a company/idea or not. Customers (might) watch a video on YouTube. Investors understand there's a risk that they might lose some or all of their money.

I wouldn't invest in a company without thorough due diligance, but if I liked what I saw, and I believed the company and especially the management team, could pull it off, I would consider investing. As a customer, I wouldn't give anyone any money for an unfinished product.

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Re: Don't buy vaporware

I agree, but a member of the public is under as much obligation to do due diligence as any corporation, and I wouldn't even limit that to new products. Would you buy a 4K TV from AuthurDaley.com or DelTrotter.co.uk?

If a public customer isn't able to verify the veracity of an organisation, then simple, don't do business with them. A punter is unlikely to have the resources do the same sort of due diligence as a well financed corporation, but they should still use common sense when spending their money.

My argument is that just because something Is vapourware, it doesn't mean that it should be automatically ignored. Vapourware is good and is essential to progress. If Apple were to follow the same model as Lily, would you invest in them even if the product they were selling was still vapourware?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't buy vaporware

"A punter is unlikely to have the resources do the same sort of due diligence as a well financed corporation, but they should still use common sense when spending their money."

I think that is the point a member of public can rarely do enough due diligence to be able to form a common-sense approach to pre-ordering goods. Therefore, as the OP stated, the only common sense approach is to not pre-order and await the finished product and some hands-on reviews.

Any of these "wow" tech gadgets, especially those listed on Indiegogo with flexible funding seem to be unable to deliver and the punters then lose their money.

Kickstarter used to be better but even that seems to me to be getting a higher failure to deliver rate in the projects I have seen (admittedly I have looked recently). Overall I have backed about 10 Kickstarter projects and had 6 delivered with only 4 really being what they initially claimed. It would have been far better to have bought the 4 items at full price and saved the money on the others -which is what I now do.

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GBE

Re: Don't buy vaporware

> Wait until there's something on the shelf. You will miss "early bird bugs" for sure,

FTFY

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Re: Don't buy vaporware

"I wonder what the world would look like if nobody was prepared to put up substantial amounts of money based on nothing more than an idea."

Most investors expect something in return, not a 10% percent discount on a problematic first run

But it's your money and it's your choice, but don't complain when the promises are nothing like what you end up with.

Imagine Dragons Den... Yes in return for you investing £100,000 in my company, I'll let you have a buy one get one free on the first ten orders.

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Unhappy

TBH Steve Jobs and Clive Sinclair also too pre orders and used the money to fund the project

Difference is they results.

Back then they may have shown a mix of non functioning prototypes for (look and feel and) and a working unit might be running on much larger hardware.

But not faking the imagery and then asking the film company to fake the source.

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Boffin

Re: TBH Steve Jobs and Clive Sinclair also too pre orders and used the money to fund the project

Actually, the main difference (legally) is Jobs & Sinclair didn't promise not to use customers' pre-sale payments to fund the operations of the company. Once you make that promise, it becomes fraud if you fail to keep that promise without disclosing that you are not going to keep that promise.

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Re: TBH Steve Jobs and Clive Sinclair also too pre orders and used the money to fund the project

"Difference is they results."

Yeah, they resulted alright. Except when they didn't. Clive and Steve were bad boys with their promises and failure to deliver as was Lord Sugar. Sinclair in particular took money for several promised products that either failed to work, weren't delivered at all or were delivered but managed to last no more than a couple of days before breaking.

Still, good to see that the spirit of the industry from the early days still thrives.

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Anonymous Coward

An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

Launch with a throw and it can follow someone? Is there a label on it that says "if found please return to owner via their back passage to the tune of a blunt instrument"?

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Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

Quadcopters are not exactly quiet and unobtrusive.

Plus the battery life is "up to" 20 minutes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

The point is the person-targeting functionality, the noise and range are resolvable technical issues and sometimes the threat of an unrequested haircut is enough. Otherwise what is the purpose of the feature except to provide evidence for a Darwin Award?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

If you get that person you are stalking to wear the wristband, then sure.

The idea is a good one and if it worked with 'perfect' collision avoidance and reliability the use-case is sound.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

> If you get that person you are stalking to wear the wristband, then sure.

You don't have to wear a wristband thing on your wrist for it to be on your person - it just needs to be planted on the person, and being small, especially without the strap, makes this easy.

If you want to do this for real then taking the vital bits out of the "friendly" casing makes these even smaller and the whole thing even easier. The collision thing is a resolvable technical red herring.

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Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

And the noisy buzzing drone could follow the person for what, 20 mins if they were walking outdoors,.... not so much if they caught the Metro, got on a bus, or in their car, or went through revolving doors, or regular doors for that matter, into a lift, or through an underpass, along a tree lined avenue,....

... and if you were going to slip something into someone's pocket, a 'Tile' type tracking device would be a better option, surely?

And no, the collision thing isn't a red herring, scanning and understanding the environment, when everything is moving and changing is no simple matter. It's hard to do when you can lug the sensors and processing power required around in a car, but you want to miniaturise that for flight? In selfie mode the drone kinda relies on the owner picking selfie friendly terrain,....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An auto-stalker drone, sounds really legit.

> ... and if you were going to slip something into someone's pocket, a 'Tile' type tracking device would be a better option, surely?

Maybe it would, or just take the strap off the wristband thing. This can be used an off-the-shelf harassment machine, and if someone is not too terrified of voiding the warranty, has scope for making it quieter and less obvious because yes, we already know that they are not silent and invisible.

Yes, the target might go into a tunnel or a shielded underground bunker or hide behind a signpost like in a cartoon but what does that have to do with the general principle? Why do the drone defence league seem to take these comments as being "anti drone"?

Holy shit people, how do any of you ever cope with doing anything if your response to something not being perfectly ready is to throw up your hands and say "can't"? When did people stop being capable of anything?

Did nobody ever paint something the wrong colour just for fun, or add an unofficial "warning total death imminent" sticker on their school lunchbox?

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Anonymous Coward

Placebo deification

I'm sure there was no effect. Filing a complaint with the Attorney General of the State of California must be as effective as praying to the pasta deity, but a couple of weeks later, paypal finally did the right thing. It's Magic.

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That's just startup risk

Looks like a great idea, just looking at the videos - which may be "fake" but clearly indicate the intent of the project - I think it's a great product ... if it can get built. There's a huge gap between the idea and the reality of getting something like this to work - you can build a prototype, fund production and then find the the first units don't work in ways that you didn't anticipate. My guess is that's what happened here and rather than dig into their pre-paid order cash and thus commit a crime, they opted to close the company down.

But it's still a great concept - I think we'll see it again.

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Incompetence or fraud

Millions of dollars and they couldn't find a suitable camera?

They've got to be kidding. I find that very hard to believe.

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That was an awesome promo video.

I could pretty much guess that it was demoing an idea rather than a real project.

The behavior they are showing is hard to achieve. Really hard. In part because it's not well specified. A casual throwing launch for instance. There is a fair chance that the craft will fly into something, perhaps even the person launching, as it's trying to stabilize. It certainly won't know it's about to splash down gently into water, pause, and automatically take off a few seconds later.

And following a wrist-worn tracker to take perfectly angled shots isn't well defined either. Following a skier down a 45 degree slope is certain to lead to disaster.

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I'm just about to give Magic Leap a grand. Do you think the whale is real?

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Don't know about the whale

I think they are selling LSD

https://www.magicleap.com/#/blog/welcome-to-magic-leap

Quite a lot of people will happily pay $10 for a surrealistic experience (with no come down), you could probably take $70 or $80 off a punter before they have the epiphany, you might get another $20 before they give up completely.

It's a novelty market, may as well invest in this years Gonks

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Concept sound

but tricky, not impossible to excecute. With large amounts of cash ring-fenced it even looks like Lily was trying to do it legally. However, lying on promotional videos is inexcusable (unless, apparently, you are a presidential candidate in which case "caveat auditor"). For everyone talking about vapo(u)rware - if something has reached flying prototype it is not vapourware - it is just not finished; a few choice words of text overlaid on the video would have cleared them of deceipt.

I have backed several Kickstarters - only one delivered something slightly less than promised, but quite a few took far, far longer than they first expected. A good company keeps you up-to-date, delivers bad news early, does not lie. If you are the sort of person who experts TRL.9 for your money, don't back innovation and live comfortably behind the curve. However, if you want technology to progress understand it does not do it itself (yet?), it needs R&D, someone to do that, someone (else) to fund it and "R&D has no guarantee".

Hindsight is twenty-twenty - the words of Antoine Balaresque to the video company are worrying, because they indicate an amoral marketeer not a pragmatic expert; leading edge tech needs pragmatic experts - 'BS'ers are not a reliable substitute.

Perhaps most worrying is that as of this morning the Lily website appears to show a going concern rather than have a big red "Sorry we f***ed up and lied" notice.

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Not a lawyer

If your case has your CEO in writing, using the phrase "I don't know much about lenses but I think we should be extremely careful if we decide to lie publicly.", you probably should look to settle.

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Fraud

This clearly was always a fraud. I guess that is the signs of the current IT bubble (and they always collapse).

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Anonymous Coward

60,000 prospective customers

it's 2017 but there's still plenty of gold in' em hills. Keep digging folk!

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Coat

This is what happens

When you go on and on about a feature you can't deliver.

*drone joke is obvious

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