Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, Pyongyang, How Bad can it Get?

A recently leaked video of Flight Simulator shows just how ugly the scenery can get when you travel off the beaten path in the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

Microsoft has been careful to control the messaging coming out of FS2020, only publishing screenshots and videos that are polished and show the simulator in it’s best light.

Disclaimer: I don’t know what build of flight simulator is being shown here. In fact, I can’t even totally confirm it is even Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I also cannot tell you what the system specs of this machine are, nor the graphics quality/detail settings used to make this video. The leaked video does not contain the typical watermarks that come from beta insiders… also it seemed like a shady attempt at getting people to join a Facebook channel full of other leaks… go figure… I’m just going to break down what we’re supposed to be seeing here.

Assuming that this video is legit… let’s just dive right in and examine what we’re actually seeing in this video.

For starters, this video is a from a flyover of Pyongyang, North Korea… a notably dead zone for data on the globe, although not much more dead than many places in the rural USA. Nobody, not even Google has 3D flyover data of North Korea. I don’t even think Microsoft has road maps of it, although Google seems to have something finally (wasn’t the case until recently). North Korea is an isolated, secretive country that barely has electricity, let alone cell phones. If you were going to put your AI to the test, Pyongyang would certainly be a hefty challenge (and not exactly ideal). Without seeing this video, I would have guessed that FS2020’s rendition of Pyongyang would be pretty spotty…. let’s see how far off my assumptions are:

The Good

First, the positives… somebody took the time to actually hand-model this stadium, no way is it AI-generated. Parts if the stadium seem to have sunken under the terrain though.

It looks pretty much like the real thing which I found with a simple Google search. This is enough to confirm that, yes, we are looking at Pyongyang, North Korea. They even put the little circular silhouettes images on the side, going all the way around… different images in each.

I gotta say though… that’s about the extent of the pleasant surprises….

Quantity, not Quality.

Let’s all remember why Microsoft needs AI for FS2020… it isn’t because it needs quality data… it is because it needs quantity. So the burning question I’ve been dying to get answered is… “How bad can it get?” I previously found a few morsels of information buried in a few published screenshots from the official Microsoft materials… but it wasn’t until I found this unauthorized, leaked video that I got my first glimpse into just how bad FS2020’s scenery can actually get…. and… it’s pretty bad.

Sadly, the Azure AI that powers FS2020 failed to render a city feasibly faked-out. For example, look how the cars drive under this bridge.

Here’s another bridge….

This bridge was plastered about 200 ft off target, with it’s actual position painted into the ground texture…

Also note that the roads cut in and out… possibly the white-balance of this satellite image has a greenish tint to it causing the AI to confuse it for grass.

Here, the AI modeled a bridge to nowhere and plastered it over the top of it’s own crappy satellite image. You can see the double image in both the start of the bridge on the left and the exit ramps. Once you cross the bridge… you crash into trees, 8 lanes wide.

Is it a road? Is it grass? Or is it a grass road? I can’t decide… and neither can “Azure AI”

What’s this tall-skinny building? At first, I thought it was the iconic Ryugyong Hotel, which was noticeably missing from the skyline.

Pyongyang Skyline taken from the Juche Tower. The Ryugyong Hotel, the biggest in North Korea, can be distinctingly seen. Trip arranged by KTG Tours
Ryugyong Hotel is Pyongyang’s most recognizable building.

However, since it was next to the stadium, I figured I could easily figure out what was supposed to occupy this space. I just needed to check Google maps. I didn’t find the Ryungyong Hotel at this site… I did find another stadium though.

Google photo of the rendered site.

Let’s see if we can find that second stadium on the map.

Yeah… okay.. this abstract looking cement circle must actually be the second stadium… but is there a tall office building next to it? What on earth is this tall building?

Looking around….. oh… here we go!

Let’s zoom in on the yellow circles….

There’s some kind of tower there. Google says that the monument in the eastern circle is called “Friendship Tower”.

Xi vows to carry forward China-DPRK traditional friendship - CGTN

Okay… so on a positive note… they put a tall structure in the scene to represent whatever that tall thing is behind the Friendship Tower, however, it is a pretty sad representation of the the skyline of Pyongyang. I’m still wondering where the hell the iconic hotel is located…. Let’s see if we can figure out where it is supposed to be in relation to all this on Google.

Here we go… I’ve circled it in pink…

So…. this huge iconic building should definitely be seen in this shot….

Maybe somewhere like this….? Definitely should be in this shot though…

Artificial Intelligence+crappy data = Artificial Stupidity.

Not only is Microsoft offering us a crappy rendition of Pyongyang (obviously there are worse things they could leave out)… but their supposed “AI” didn’t really generate a feasibly functional city in it’s place… grass roads to nowhere.. cars driving on water under bridges…

Whereas the world is accepting of the idea that Artificial Intelligence is in it’s infancy, I think we all expected an AI-generated city to be more functional than what is shown here.

There are plenty of parts of the 1st world that are similarly data-poor and would potentially be rendered insufficiently by FS2020!

When Microsoft started blowing it’s horn that it’s “Azure AI” platform was going miraculously model the world with it’s Artificial Intelligence in such a way that no human could possibly do, I immediately thought to myself that it was complete utter bullshit and looked to find a way to show just how bad the AI actually is.

As a software engineer, I am skeptical of “AI”. I think the term “AI” is just a buzzword that CEOs use to lure unsuspecting venture capitalists and consumers into giving them money…

AI… like any computer algorithm requires data to work well, and Microsoft actually has very limited data about the world when compared to the data possessed by Google. I’m quite positive that the developer tasked with coding the algorithms to comb Bing Maps for FS2020 was wishing the entire time that he had Google’s dataset to work with instead of the garbage offered my Microsoft…. and even then, it would still be not enough to do what Microsoft is relentlessly bragging that it has accomplished.

If your data sucks, Artificial Intelligence isn’t going to help you. And even if your data is pretty good, Artificial Intelligence still has very limited value.

AI, or “Machine Learning” is really just a way to solve a programming problem where the answers to similar problems are used to feed weights and ratios into an algorithm to determine the most-likely results when offered future data. Really… that’s it. That’s all there is.

Some of today’s generation of hardware contains some special “cores” called “Tensor Cores” which accelerate the rate at which you can test all kinds of different weighted conditions… the weights are called “Tensors”. Really… that’s it… That’s all there is. Just some weights and ratios tested against some notably, preprocessed, pre-classified data tested by humans.

It is pretty rare that computer AI figures out how to do something better than an actual human can. Instead computer scientists oooh and aahh and pat each other on the back when the AI makes decisions that are barely passable as human-like decisions.

Don’t get me wrong… there’s a purpose to all this research, but if someone tries to sell you a coffee maker with Artificial Intelligence built-in… just don’t buy the hype… the way AI is marketed these days is utter nonsense.

I’m super excited to try out Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I’m sure it will be a huge leap forward in Flight Simulators (which have been notably abandoned for 13 years)…. but marketing hype especially when coupled with bold claims about Artificial Intelligence makes this software engineer very angry.

One Reply to “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, Pyongyang, How Bad can it Get?”

  1. Honey, I love you. I love your zeal and attention to all things FS2020. Adorable. I do hope you can still enjoy it with all of it’s imperfection.

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