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The Sky is the Limit!

By 4 December, 2019 March 17th, 2020 No Comments

The Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 reboot takes a new height.

MS hyper realistic game is a basis for a real world simulator

New version of Microsoft’s flight simulation game will soon be released. It looks hyper-realistic. The developers of the beloved game worked over five years on this release. It turns out that flight simulations have become the less significant part of the game.

In collaboration with game developer Asobo Studio and the advantage of the Microsoft’s Bing Maps engine, which aggregates a hyper-real high-definition image database from satellites, and with utilising Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform that adds artificial intelligence to enrich details, they created an awesome engine for rendering the whole world.

A Real Globe

The new simulator is neither an elaborated animation of the globe, nor a pixelated picture of mountains and cities. This new world powered by Bing and based on real maps combines quality satellite imagery and 3D photogrammetry data, draws upon high-resolution photogrammetric scans. All those create a virtual planet. It looks very much like the landscape and real structures anyone can view from the window. The developers created 3D views of over 400 cities around the world in even finer detail. 

Moreover, the Flight Simulator uses rendering tools and draws upon AI to fine-tune actual 3D imagery and fill in the gaps, ranging from remote stretches of terrain to buildings that are obscured in Bing’s pictures.

The Aircraft

Microsoft’s cooperation with aircraft manufacturers, including Cessna and Robin Aircraft, makes the virtual planes as authentic as possible, at least for the end of 2019. Each plane model has a fully interactive instrumentation and sophisticated flight modelling. That includes access to Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) files used to manufacture the actual aircrafts and getting virtual air time with experienced test pilots. The controls have the players display the full cockpit view, and the audio replicates the sounds associated with takeoff, landing and in-air maneuvers.

Sky and weather

If you think “it’s like Google Earth”. Think again – so far, we have talked about landscape. But what happens up in the sky? Microsoft worked on creating a nearly perfect weather simulation. From atmospheric pressure to air pollution, from storm clouds to jet fumes. The light coming from the sun and touching the cloud will cast a perfect shadow on the ground.

Asobo’s developers dug deep into the physics of light scattered by hazy skies, of how clouds are formed with multiple layers of moisture, and how those clouds reflect and refract the light. It also replicates the physics of flight — right down to the way raindrops stream across the windshield, and the way air flows around a mountain to create turbulence.

Real-world data

The most interesting game innovation is its real-world weather data connectivity. Software-based tools pull data directly from Bing, and the player can experience real-time weather conditions. The game utilises details such as live wind speed and wind direction, humidity and other factors feeding data into a simulation that is constantly swirling in real-time. This means if there is a storm in Tasmania, it also storms in the simulation, if you happen to fly over Tasmania. That means you will be able to train yourself at flying in real weather conditions at any time. The flight simulation creates the same kind of sophisticated aerial landscape that makes piloting a real-world aircraft such a challenge. It also affects the handling of your aircraft. 

The goal of the game developers  was to create software-based tools that can show a real picture of the world and even fix topography automatically. The terrain imagery is stored in the cloud, and it can be regularly updated with new construction and changes in geography. As everyone is interested in seeing the places on earth, this is now possible – at least for the areas enabled by the game. You can enjoy the world as it is from home.

The new Microsoft flight simulator game raises questions about the future: Will it be possible to train pilots through home flight simulations? We know that in some places, licensed pilots already use simulators to accumulate flight hours, and to train over edge and extreme scenarios in a safe, cost effective way. But will simulators actually take significant part in training new pilots? Will it be possible to recruit future pilots through computer games?

Microsoft may still call the game Flight Simulator, but it is easy to see that it actually is a base for a world simulator. What can we do with the real-time simulator of our world? It seems that if there is already a world that looks like our world and our homes building and our weather and all that in real-time, then just missing … people? nature scenes? Or we already have an unmanned aerial vehicle.

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