Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Will be an Angry Referendum on Bing Maps

As I argued yesterday, you can’t Azure AI your way past complete utter, total lack of accurate data. Flight Simulator 2020 will leave Flight Simmers wishing that they had Google’s data. How bad will it be? Well, here’s a side-by-side comparison — a mix and match, including some major cities and mid-sized cities that you might want to fly a plane to.

UPDATE: It should be noted that this is a comparison of Microsoft vs. Google data sets and none of these screens are from FS2020. However, it is relevant to note that FS2020 is using Microsoft’s Bing Maps to inform the sim about areas of the world that human artists don’t have the time, incentive, nor budget to painstakingly comb through. I do not have insider access, so I can’t tell you, for example, how good or bad Tokyo looks in FS2020, and even if I had insider access, I’d be bound by NDA to say nothing, however I can tell you that Microsoft published a pretty poor screen shot of Warsaw, Poland that was missing virtually all of the Warsaw skyline. None of these screenshots are from Flight Simulator 2020 therefore I am making no observations about what the actual scenery in FS2020 will actually look like, and in fact, much of what I’m talking about here is pure speculation. Microsoft could, for example, rely on additional surveys and artwork hand-crafted by 3D artists to render Tokyo… however… the point I’m trying to make here is that the forgotten parts of the world are going to be only as accurate as Bing Maps and Azure AI can artificially make guesses.

We all know that Google and Microsoft both have good data for New York and San Francisco… but what about Honolulu, Tokyo, Flint, Rockford, IL? What about the mountain ranges? This gallery might leave you wondering how in the heck Microsoft expects to employ Azure AI to auto-gen all this missing architecture. It would probably, honestly, be easier for them to just buy it from a vendor.

Flint, MI

If Bing maps is going to be the database that powers Flight Simulator 2020, what we’re going to be flying through will be a beautiful, but totally inaccurate representation of the world. It will be just a stroll through some dramatically upgraded, auto-generated scenery. Take a look at these comparisons and let me know how you think that “Azure AI” can possibly extrapolate all the missing 3D data. There’s a massive amount missing in Bing, vs. Google. On the left, Bing, on the Right, Google.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that many locations I tried yielded flat maps from both Google and Microsoft. These included Baghdad, The Florida Keys, St. Bart’s, Guttenberg, Panama City… among others. So nobody has the “whole world” in 3D (yet). But the takeaway I got from my little survey is that it was apparent that Microsoft doesn’t really seem to care about awesome 3D imagery to the same degree that Google does.

Dubuque, IA
Rockford, IL
Waterloo, IA

When looking for differences, I found 0 locations where Google had flat maps and Microsoft had 3D Maps. I visited a few small cities that I was familiar with, naturally expecting them to be covered by Google, but neglected by Microsoft, and certainly my suspicions were confirmed.

Honolulu, HI

I found some interesting, iconic, important cities that were missing. Honolulu was one of them.

Tokyo, Japan

I even found some pretty major omissions by Microsoft… Tokyo! C’Mon Microsoft! No Tokyo?

Mt. Everest

I also checked out Mt Everest, where it seems like Microsoft has better bitmaps, but Google may have better elevation data. I’ll continue to add to this Gallery as I continue to find compelling differences.

3 Replies to “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Will be an Angry Referendum on Bing Maps”

  1. Interesting.
    As Microsoft owns Bing, I’m sure that they will not use Google.
    At least the ‘missing’ scenery gaps are opportunities for add-on developers.

  2. I’m so glad I found your blog and comments about FS2020! I have been kicked out of Facebook groups and treated very harshly for being skeptical and asking a few legit questions about the simulator.

    I am also a software engineer with decades of experience and was fearing that this would happen. After all the marketing and alpha program from Microsoft, I was expecting Google Earth VR-quality level with either 3D eye’s view reconstruction or very good mesh/orthophotos when 3D is not available. But instead they gave us poorer quality maps and a more inaccurate mesh. This is filled with something like autogen++ that is not very good, as there are sunken bridges in the middle of London, flooded streets, hanging rivers and footpaths that look like highways. No flight simulator in the world can be called realistic if autogen is used. No matter how good it is, it will always look like a toy.

    They also advertised “depart from any airport in the world” and the one I usually depart from on XPlane was not there (5th biggest city in Spain, international flights, 2 runways). I later found the same happened to other main cities like Stuttgart in Germany.

    I am a flight simmer and of course this is a great product that filled a gap that was missing: streaming scenery. It also excels in ease of use. However, how is this revolutionary? No VR yet when Xplane has it, same ATC as in FSX (with no voice control), cockpits with a lot of inop controls, and a not very refined flight model. Plus no Boeing 737!

    If you are interested, I made a full review here:

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