In reference to the patent: US8396664
With the above patent in effect, does this mean that no one else in the continental USA is able to 3D map a golf course?
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The patent describes a specific method of 3D mapping a golf course. The method is described in the patent and is specifically limited by the claims. It does not necessarily eliminate all other possible technologies which might accomplish the same function. Although this is a US patent, it is possible there are international equivalents at least applied for.
No, 3D mapping of terrain (including a golf course) has been around since a long time before that patent was filed. The patent owners can only prevent others from infringing their claimed invention (in places where the patent is issued and enforceable) to the extent the claims are valid in light of prior art, among other things.
The patent only holds value when 3D geospatial data (photogrammetry or LiDAR) of golf course is integrated or utilized in a 3D gaming (SIM, Console, AR, VR, MR), visualization environment, web mapping (Google Earth/Bing Maps) or various mobile (iOS/Android/Win), or golf cart mounted GPS system.
Whether you use satellite data, a plane with a camera, a pet pelican with a camera or a drone with a camera, using the collected stereo photogrammetry or LiDAR data to produce a 3D DEM; then integrating that geodetic, 3D golf course data into a software platform or device is the patent. (**We have been mapping golf courses in 3D/stereo since 1999, shooting in stereo with Leica RC30 film cameras, however, this is not prior art.)
"...a three-dimensional (x,y,z) geospatial model is built and then integrated into 3-D gaming, visualization and web mapping environments such as Microsoft Bing Maps, Google Earth, and various mobile and golf cart mounted, golf course navigation systems."
Karl Engstrom - CEO - Terra Imaging - www.terraimaging.com - www.3dgolfcourse.com