Microsoft is re-imagining travel with immersive, mixed reality maps

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Let’s say you are planning a vacation to Italy. You’re making a list of the things you want to do, the attractions you want to visit, and you realize that there is too much to see with too little time. If only there were a way to get the real sense of a place before you even step foot in it… Well, Microsoft wants to change that with its latest software development kit (SDK) for Bing Maps. Microsoft now launched a mixed reality map control for Unity development platform.


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What is mixed reality and how is it different from augmented reality and virtual reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is an experience wherein you overlay graphics on video streams of the real/physical world. As far as using augmented reality for map navigation is concerned, Google Maps will soon dominate the scene.

Virtual reality (VR), meanwhile, refers to a simulated and immersive experience that takes the user ‘inside’ a digital world with the help of devices like sensor-fitted headsets.

Mixed reality (MR) combines elements from both AR and VR to blend the physical and digital worlds seamlessly. For example, in the movie Jumanji, the physical structure of the house where the story takes place was blended with a jungle environment to create an MR experience.


As the only map control to offer mixed reality, Maps SDK will enable developers to make stereoscopic (3D) immersive visualizations available in addition to the basic geospatial facilities that allow them to view any part of the world and do their own overlays on them.

The control is a simple drag-and-drop plugin which provides an off-the-shelf 3D map, customizable controls, and building blocks for creative mixed reality map experiences. You just need to call the API on the map control, tell which location you want to look at – with the level of detail that you want to view – and it will handle downloading all of the data and making it visible to you.

To give developers and users a preview of what this 3D maps control can actually do, Microsoft has even released a sample app on the Microsoft Store. You can experience it using Windows mixed reality headset or HoloLens.

Ishveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a freelance technology writer who has been named among Geospatial World's 50 Risings Stars 2021. With 13 years of mainstream journalism and digital content writing experience, Ishveena is passionate about bringing to the fore the value of location technology to the economy and society. Her clients include GIS corporations, proptech companies, fintech leaders, and some of the world's top drone manufacturers and service providers.

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