Microsoft to Launch Simulation Platform, SDK

The platform is designed to bring immersive game technology to training, decision making and modeling.

REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft plans to unveil a new platform, based on its game technology, that will bring visualization and simulation capabilities to the masses.

The Microsoft ESP platform, which the company will roll out Nov. 14, will include a software development kit.

Drew Lytle, group manager of Microsoft ESP, said the platform brings immersive games-based technology to training and learning, decision support, and R&D modeling for military and commercial aviation organizations.

Based on the software makers popular Flight Simulator game, Microsoft ESP provides a PC-based simulation engine, comprehensive set of tools, APIs, documentation to support code development, content integration and scenario-building capabilities along with an extensive base of world content that can be tailored for custom solutions, said Ed McCahill, marketing manager for Microsoft ESP.

Partners and developers can add structured experiences or missions, content such as terrain and scenery, scenarios, and hardware devices to augment existing solutions or build new solutions that address the mission-critical requirements of their customers, said David Boker, senior director of the Business Development Group at Microsofts Aces Studio, where ESP and Flight Simulator are developed.

Microsoft ESP supports PC-based commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software, and enables simulations to be built in a faster and more cost-effective manner than specialized hardware and software, McCahill said. Boker said that according to Microsofts estimates, about $18 billion is spent annually on hardware, software and services to support modeling and simulation.

While the initial version is targeted to military and commercial aviation audiences, future versions will expand into ground and maritime operations, indoor and avatar-centric simulations for commercial, government and academic learning opportunities, Lytle said.

Lytle envisions the ESP platform being used for training heavy equipment operators, helicopter pilots and long-haul truckers as well as driver education, among other things.

"Our vision is to take this wherever customers want it," Boker said.

Meanwhile, to support high-fidelity, dynamic, three-dimensional and immersive experiences, Microsoft ESP includes geographical, cultural, environmental and rich scenery data, along with tools for placing objects, scenery and terrain customization, object activation, special effects, and environmental controls including adjustable weather, said Shawn Firminger, studio manager at Aces Studio.

"We have five seasons, the fifth being a hard winter," he said. The platform also features scene generation and scenery support for continuous time of day, night textures and other scenery support, he said.

It supports After-Action Review for performance playback and analysis. The platform also offers support for standardized data sources such as Digital Elevation Model data, vector data, WGS-84 datum, METAR weather data, dynamic objects and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, Firminger said.

The platform also features multiplayer functionality and Internet support, including VOIP (voice over IP), to allow up to 30 people to participate using a peer-to-peer broadband connection anywhere in the world, Firminger said.

The platform is developer friendly, Lytle said. "Were providing a set of tools," he said. "Visual Studio will be the code development environment," but the ESP team is providing other content for programmers, such as integration support and 3-D objects, he said.

McCahill said Microsoft is looking to forge relationships with individual developers and with large contractors and systems integrators that service—to start—the aviation industry and related industries.

"We learned early that developers are passionate followers," Boker said. "To reach out to them is natural from a platform perspective. You just have to enable developers."