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Microsoft Flight Simulator head says devs are “five years” from using an open source model of Earth

It looks like the world could be just five short years away from having an open source model of earth so good that any studio could build a game or simulator in it. That’s according to Microsoft Flight Simulator head Jorg Neumann, who has spoken to PCGamesN in an interview at X019.

When asked how far away he thought away this prospect might be, Neumann replies, “Five years. So, the thing that happens, when you really put yourself in the material, there are sensors everywhere. There are billions of cameras in the sky, on your car, on traffic lights. It’s everywhere.

“And there’s other data like, we know where the whales are, we know where the rhinos run around, we know where all the cars and the trains are – and that data is actually freely available.”

Neumann cites NASA’s data as an example, saying that the organisation has a map showing all of the world’s wildfires. “So, people ask me, could you do the Amazon fires right now? And it’s like, yup. And could I show the decay of the forests? I sure could,” he adds.

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The upcoming flight sim uses a combination of satellite imagery – pulled from Bing’s maps – and cloud processing – built from Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service technology. A photogrammetry process interprets two-dimensional imagery into three-dimensional objects in the game – kind of like a pop-up Bing maps. And yes, you’ll be able to fly over your own house when Microsoft Flight Simulator arrives.

It’s an innovative approach, but if Neumann’s estimation is correct, perhaps we will indeed start to see games built using an open source model of the world in the next five years.

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