Flying virtually to a real virtual place

We don’t get to travel much at the moment so being able to virtual visit places is fun. Of course visiting places that exist, but don’t exist, yet do are even more fun 🙂

Today is a slightly odd day as Predlet 1.0 is heading back to a face to face class at 6th form college for the first time since february and the 2020 lockdown. To avoid cramming into a train I need to drive here the 20 mins to college so I am up bright and early, so a good time to share this post which I put both on facebook and twitter yesterday, but is something more memorable (for me anyway).

Microsoft FlightSimulator2020 came out in mid August and I have always been a fan of flight sims in general, but this one lets you fly anywhere in the World because it uses Microsoft’s Bing photographic maps of the globe and combined that with a bunch of other data sources to create buildings, trees, traffic and even realtime weather for anywhere you choose to head to. The standard thing to do is jump in a plane and fly over your own house, we have all done it. You can pause the flight and jump off in a camera drone to explore the view and it is quite fascinating. You can of course do this with things like google maps and street view, I have played with that in VR too, where I actually found myself walking out of the train station. However the live digital twin of the world and the fun of actually flying different types of plane really give flight sim something else. Hence, I thought I would visit somewhere that is real, but also fictitious or virtual in one of my little planes.

When I wrote the first novel Reconfigure I set Roisin’s adventure in a very british style edge of town/city environment with lots of access to countryside and some rural locations. Whilst the science of the coordinate system was consistent with itself, the entire place was a mix of images in my head of places near me or that I have visited. When it came to the follow up Cont3xt I challenged myself to find a more exotic and remote location. As I wrote back then I found an actual island for sale and used Google Earth to scout the location off the Brazilian coast. I used Street View to head to the local mainland town and wander around to get the feel of the place. Lots of the things in the book, despite it being scifi, are based on real things. It is worth noting Roisin has a real Twitter account (key in the original story), Marmite is almost a second character, she builds systems using Unity and even uses protocols like MQTT sole some things. OK the quantum computing part is a bit more off the chart but its all based on real theories extended a little to tell a good yarn.

Along come Flightsim2020 with the ability to fly anywhere in the world. The navigation map to select where to fly lets you click anywhere but it works best if you have an airfield to start from, it feels more like a real journey. Whilst the main town in Cont3xt has an aiport there is also a grass landing strip on another island about 1 mile east of Roisin’s island. I headed there.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Landing strip

I took off, avoiding the trees at the end of the runway and as I banked and levelled on the right course, there it was.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
heading to the island

I got quick a shiver down my neck and back as it took me back to the buzz of writing the books and the fun of the story and adventure, the anticipation of the fun others might have reading it.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Overview with the plane

The island in context has a slightly larger building and a helipad, plus a large “container” but of course they were the artefacts I added in the story.

I also then headed North, a trip that used boats in the book, toward the main town.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Heading to town

And there it was the jetty and the market shops that Roisin tries to stay out of trouble in while gathering supplies (including more Marmite)

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Town

I then flew back, over the island again and landed (yes actually landed not crashed) the plane one the grass strip nearby.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Heading back

The whole flight was awe-inspiring. I realise that its more of an incredible personal experience for me as a writer but it made me consider the sort of images and film like sequences I saw in my head that I then wrote in the words. It made me smile doing it and writing this 🙂 I hope you get a kick out of this too.

One thought on “Flying virtually to a real virtual place

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