Education Laser Scanning Other Technology

From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse – Part 6

image of nav unit From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse - Part 6
From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse - Part 6

If you missed any of the previous “From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse” blog posts you can do a quick search using the term “metaverse” to get the links for Parts 1 – 5.

As I noted in Part 4 I had spent about a year working as the business development guy at Blue Marble Geographics. During that time it became very clear that there was going to be a huge market for digital mapping. Once the GPS constellation had enough satellites to support consumer apps companies like Garmin and Magellan started building low cost GPS handheld receivers. The problem was you needed a notebook computer to display the topo map if you wanted to see your location in real time.

I don’t remember the conference, but I met Bill Michaelson, a WPI Professor in Electrical Engineering in 1997. We hit it off as I had graduated from WPI in 1972. I told Bill about the opportunity and he said he had a solution. We could use a microdisplay about the size of the fingernail on your pinky to create a virtual monitor that when you looked in our handheld device (see photo) you thought you were looking a 15 inch monitor from about 2 feet.

We received 2 U.S. patents for a handheld personal navigation device with a microdisplay. We won a business plan competition with over 100 entrants and we really thought we were off and running. Unfortunately the microdisplay market never developed as we have seen with Google glass and many other vendors. Before you know it the cell phone appeared and that was the end of the opportunity.

In the early 2000’s I went to work for AAI – Applied Analysis, Inc., a Route 128 high tech remote sensing start-up. There commercial software product was the “Subpixel Classifier.” As the inventor liked to remind me, there is no such thing as a pure pixel. I learned a lot about remote sensing from some very smart people, but ultimately we could not commercialize it.

That job led to a consulting gig with Flight Land Data which had been working on what became the Buckeye system – an unclassified lightweight camera that could be flown on helicopters without a lot of bureaucracy. The Army now owns this system.

Then one day in about 2004 I got a call from Terry Bennett who had went to work for Autodesk when they acquired Softdesk. That led to my going to work for the Desk and getting the assignment to develop a formal opportunity proposal to convince them to invest in 3D laser scanning software. They approved it. Just for the record, it was my long time buddy Dave Dadoly, now retired from Bentley Systems that first told me about laser scanning around 2002.

In 2008 I was fired by Autodesk along with 750 of my closest friends. My 16 – year old son was making money generating traffic on the Internet came into my office and said, “Hey Dad, you know what you should do?” I said, “No, tell me. ” He said, “You should start a blog.” I said, What’s a blog?” He said, “I am going to build you a blog this weekend.” As they say, the rest is history. That eventually led to the Lidar News digital marketing business.

So that brings up to the present. I think I will do one more to discuss today’s hot trends and what I think the high tech future is going to hold for surveying engineering professionals.

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