Friday, January 20, 2006

More on Microsoft's geometry clipmap patent

Here is the text of the geometry clipmap patent application titled "Terrain rendering using nested regular grids."

The researchers who have developed this idea (Losasso & Hoppe) published an article on their technique in NVidia's "GPU GEMS 2." That seems like a pretty lame thing to do, given that they applied for the patent in early 2004. I've come across a discussion thread at gamedev where the general consensus is that it is a defensive patent and they wouldn't defend it against others who would use it. While this may be the case for most games developed, the virtual globe market is red hot and I would assume that they would use this against Google, ESRI and any other virtual globe product out there that uses it to give their offering an edge.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Current EarthBrowser status

EarthBrowser version 2.9 is coming out soon. I am abandoning CodeWarrior as a development environment. It was a lifesaver in the 90s, but with XCode and Visual Studio, I understand why Motorola has them focusing on embedded developers.

I got a new iMac Intel (is that what they are calling them?) and have been preparing the Universal Binary release. Version 2.9 will have some major speed boosts due to better hardware optimizations. It will also feature a completely new database engine which is faster, portable and open source. Apple has expressed interest in distributing EarthBrowser as part of their school software bundle program, but we haven't signed any contracts yet.

It's like running through water to be developing the OpenGL based version 3 and have to keep going back and updating the old code base. At some point I hope I can focus on the new version exclusively. Speaking of the new version, I had YAMS (yet another major setback) on that front. I had been trying to develop my own clipmap and geometry clipmap classes for the past few months. After googling for some more recent info on the geometry clipmap, I came upon Microsoft's patent application for the method. Very disappointing, but I'm certain they will get granted many of their claims. I can't take the risk of implementing patented code, so guess I'll be moving to geomipmaps, they are simpler anyway. All those guys over at who are putting it into their games should be made aware of it, but I am not a member there, just a lurker.

I've been working on version 3 off and on for the past year and a half and the foundation is very stable, scriptable and extensible. Once my second son is safely getting accustomed to this world after a few weeks, I hope to dig in and really bring the version 2 and 3 functionality closer together.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blog Purpose

I envision the Earth Browser blog as a place to discuss issues and ideas about software development, earth science, GIS and social implications of all of the above.

I produce a software product called EarthBrowser that I have been developing since 1996 in graduate school. It first went on sale in 1998 as a Macintosh shareware product called Planet Earth. It is, as far as I know, the first commercially available product to display dynamically updated earth data (just clouds).

EarthBrowser now has many competitors, most notably Google Earth (formerly Keyhole), ESRI has just put out ArcGIS Exporer and Microsoft is rumored to be putting out it's own 3D earth product. Each of these products will have major infrastructure support and are being given away for free. Even with these challenges I believe that EarthBrowser will flourish due to it's superior user experience, relevant real-time data, excellent support and focused, dedicated and small (just me) development staff.

Welcome to the Earth Browser blog.