(Image courtesy of Microsoft)
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Review: Under the hood — ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ 2020

Ever wanted to play games like Ready Player One or Sword Art Online? Well, gaming in a virtual world has always been a dream that was blocked by a boundary that could not be broken down, until Microsoft released its brilliant new version of Flight. This adventurous game marks the first step of a new generation in the gaming world and will allow players to explore something never seen before.

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is something the world has never encountered before, which is an exact twin of the planet as we know it. Even though it may sound insane, “Flight” has copied all of Earth’s buildings, bodies of water, trees, and every other physical object. However, the real revolution is that Microsoft has created and intermixed different types of technology to construct “Flight,” taking the game on a whole other level with no competition. 

(Images courtesy of Microsoft)

Originally, “Microsoft Flight Simulator” was released in November 1982. However, because Microsoft was not a major tech company at the time, it did not have enough resources and technology to generate another reality identical to the Earth.

After many decades, a Microsoft executive Jörg Neumann worked with HoloTour for a reality headset six years ago. When he was working with HoloTour, they were trying to create Machu Picchu for Microsoft’s reality headset, but they were only able to create pictures from the street level. Neumann was not satisfied because Machu Picchu is an area filled with mountains and nature. He then decided to ask the Bing Maps team to take the data of Machu Picchu, like an aerial view, and combine the pictures taken to create the beautiful city. Because of this phenomenon, Neumann wanted to up the playing field by making a duplicate of the whole planet. 

While working with Bing Maps, Neumann also discovered that the Bing Maps team has photogrammetry data for hundreds of cities, which only gave them more hope for the flight simulator. Not only did he have the Bing team, but Microsoft has contracts with companies that had lidar technology. As a result, Neumann took advantage of this and used the lidar to generate images of the Earth in detail.

Furthermore, during this time, Neumann worked with Asobo Studio in France, which had created a graphics engine that could generate virtual environments. After gathering all these different types of technology and data and layering them together, Neumann was able to create an exact copy of Seattle, which gave him permission to revive “Flight” for 2020.

(GIF courtesy of Blackshark.ai)

However, Microsoft did not have a detailed viewpoint of all of Earth, so the team used satellite imagery and aerial photography. Then, Blackshark, an Austrian company and Asobo’s co-developer, imputed machine learning with the images from the satellites and aerial photos to generate buildings and other objects in great detail, according to TechCrunch.

Meanwhile, Neumann was determined to input the daily weather into the flight simulator, so he travelled to Switzerland to discuss his plans. There, he used another one of Microsoft’s resources, Photosynth, a discontinued app that generates three-dimensional models of the world. After collecting loads of data from different types of technology that collect photos aerially and three-dimensionally, like Bing Maps and OpenStreetMap, Microsoft fed it through a series of algorithms to generate lakes, roads, mountains, and even your home!

Despite how amazing “Flight” may be, no personal computer can hold the amount of data in the game, thus forcing Microsoft to use Azure. Azure is a computing cloud that creates the “Flight” model of the earth and allows the players to use the data. 

After years of gathering data and layering every little piece together, the puzzle was finally completed. Ever since the 1980s, “Flight” has always been a dream that seemed far far away, but because of Microsoft’s technological resources and connections, Neumann and his team were able to take the first step to a gaming world with limitless possibilities.