Terravision (computer program)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Terravision)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Developer(s)ART+COM, Berlin
Initial release1993; 29 years ago (1993)
TypeVirtual globe
TerraVision installation at Intercommunication Center Tokyo, 1998
TerraVision installation at NTT InterCommunication Center, 1998

Terravision is a 3D mapping software developed in 1993 by the German company ART+COM in Berlin as a "networked virtual representation of the earth based on satellite images, aerial shots, altitude data and architectural data".[1] Development of the project was supported by the Deutsche Post (now Deutsche Telekom). In 2014, ART+COM filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming its 2001 product Google Earth infringed the 1995 patent rights of Terravision. It lost in May 2016 as the jury of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware found in favor of Google. It also lost on appeal at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2017.[2]


Terravision is a networked virtual representation of the earth based on satellite images, aerial shots, altitude data and architectural data collected by the company in 1993.[1]

The project was realized by Joachim Sauter, Pavel Mayer, Axel Schmidt, Gerd Grueneis, Dirk Luesebrink, Hendrik Tramberend and Steffen Meschkat[3] using Onyx Computers developed by Silicon Graphics, Inc.[4] Because Terravision was the first system to provide a seamless web navigation and visualization of the earth in a massively large spatial data environment, Joachim Sauter called it a prequel to Google Earth.[1]


Terravision was developed starting in 1993, originally as an art project by ART+COM in Berlin, a collective of artists and computer hackers, some from the Chaos Computer Club.[5] In 1994, ART+COM filed a patent called "Method and Device for Pictorial Representation of Space-related Data."[2] In 1995, then Deutsche Post (now Deutsche Telekom) approached Art+Com searching for high-end applications for its high-speed VBN network.[6]

In 1994, Art+COM presented its project then named it T_Vision at the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference[7] in Kyoto on twin monitors of a RealityEngine by Silicon Graphics. An image of the earth in space on a five-foot television screen could be spun by a large trackball beside it. According to Mark Pesce, ART+COM's two main programmers Pavel Meyer and Axel Schmidt were able to fix the software program which they had set up in Berlin on a different machine, in the last 10 minutes prior to opening of the conference.[8] T_Vision was shown one month later to the public for the first time at the Interactive Media Festival in the Variety Arts Center, Los Angeles, winning the judge's $5,000 prize.[8]

Lawsuit against Google[edit]

Google Earth was released in 2001. By 2006, Art+Com emailed Google about Terravision. Google chief technology officer Michael Jones[9] visited to discuss licensing and Michelle Lee, then a Google lawyer, showed interest in the patent. However Art+Com did not accept the offer, and in 2010 reissued its patent, asking Google to get a license under their patent. When this did not occur,[4] Art+Com filed a lawsuit against Google in February 2014 for patent infringement, seeking US$100 million.[10]

In May 2016, the jury of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware found, that a Stanford Research Institute (SRI) geographical visualization system known as "SRI TerraVision" was used earlier than Terravision.[11]

In October 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that decision and invalidated Art+Com's patent.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Terravision and its creators feature in the 2021 German miniseries The Billion Dollar Code made by Netflix which recounts the history of the program in a fictionalized account and ends with the 2014 patent infringement lawsuit they brought against Google.[12] The series, which was shown on Netflix is prefaced by an episode of interviews with the ART+COM developers of Terravision and their legal representative.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "ART+COM Studios, Terravision". artcom.de. n.d. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "German firm says Google infringed on its patent when it made Google Earth". The Daily Dot. February 23, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  3. ^ "joachim sauter; work; terravision 1994". www.joachimsauter.com. n.d. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Steve Brachmann (October 25, 2017). "CAFC affirms invalidity of geographic map visualization patent asserted against Google Earth". IPWatchdog.com, Patents & Patent Law. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  5. ^ Mark Pesce (October 19, 2021). "Google Earth isn't as powerful as it could have been". www.theregister.com. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  6. ^ Detlef Borchers (October 5, 2021). "Zahlen, bitte! Blick auf die Erde mit einer Auflösung von 30 Metern". heise online (in German). Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  7. ^ "Plenipotentiary Conferences".
  8. ^ a b Pesce, Mark (2000). The playful world : how technology is transforming our imagination (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-43943-0. OCLC 45132987.
  9. ^ Fallows, James (January 3, 2013). "Google's Michael Jones on How Maps Became Personal". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  10. ^ "First amended complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware - ART+COM Innovationpool GmbH. vs GOOGLE INC" (PDF). March 14, 2014. Michael Jones [..] and Brian McClendon [..] were employed at SGI during the period that ART+ COM was developing Terravision. [..] Mr. McClendon was employed by Keyhole and Mr. Jones served on its Board of Directors
  11. ^ ART COM INNOVATIONPOOL GMBH v. GOOGLE LLC (2017-10-20) ("Lau testified that he demonstrated SRI TerraVision to an audience of more than 100 people at the 1994 MAGIC Technical Symposium held at the University of Kansas in August 1994 and to an audience of more than 500 people at the SIGGRAPH '95 conference held in Los Angeles in August 1995, the latter of which was attended by at least two members of Art+Com. Id. at 1048–50, 1058–59. Lau explained that he gave individuals from Art+Com copies of the SRI TerraVision “source code, walked them through it, and talked to them about it.”").Text
  12. ^ "'The Billion Dollar Code': The battle over Google Earth". Deutsche Welle. October 7, 2021. Archived from the original on October 11, 2021. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  13. ^ "The Billion Dollar Code". Netflix.com. Netflix. Retrieved October 22, 2021.

External links[edit]