Garage projects team up to illustrate the power of mixed reality in a new SDK and sample app

Two Microsoft Garage projects team up, proving that two heads are better than one and that the Space Needle is a lot cooler in 3D than 2D. Today, we are excited to announce the release of Maps SDK, a Microsoft Garage project that enables developers to incorporate 3D world data into Unity-based, mixed reality experiences as well as a sample app that illustrates the SDK in a new, mixed reality experience for travel mobile app and Garage project Outings.

A customizable 3D Map canvas for MR creators

MapsSDK_Screenshot_01Maps SDK offers a host of developer-friendly controls, allowing creators to focus their energy on innovative MR experiences. Developers can drag the map control into a Unity scene to build on an out-of-the-box map complete with 3D terrain and configurable city and location labels sourced from Bing Maps, rather than start from scratch and create their own. From there, they can overlay additional geo-anchored content that users can explore via a table-top map experience with built-in panning, zooming, and navigation tools.

In effect, Maps SDK creates a canvas against which developers can illustrate content in new and interesting ways. Whether developers are layering in data visualizations, custom 3D objects/terrain, or other geo-anchored content, the project gives them a head start so they can spend less time on the basics, and more time bringing a creative MR map experience to life.

Explore places near and far, now in mixed reality

“We are constantly thinking about the intersection between maps and new mediums,” shared Brian Kircher, a Senior Software Engineer on the Maps team and developer for Maps SDK. “We not only wanted to empower MR developers, but also inspire them.” By day, Brian, David Buerer, and Jesse Levine, work on the Maps team and sit next to Oswaldo Ribas, the current PM of Microsoft Garage project Outings. “Last summer, we were brainstorming how we could illustrate what a 3D map control could do when it hit us that Outings was the perfect experience to bring to mixed reality,” shared Jesse, a Program Manager II. Pairing up with the Outings team, the three pitched an Outings mixed reality experience to a group of Bing interns.

The original Outings Garage project launched in December of 2017 and presents users with points of interest by pulling in rich pictures and relevant descriptions from digital travel journals so they can explore local gems and far-away destinations through a Tinder-esque, card UI. The team of interns was able to easily create a similar travel exploration experience in a few short weeks by leveraging Maps SDK and the location-based data that powers the Outings iOS and Android apps. While the sand-boxed sample app is not connected to the mobile experiences (locations saved on mobile will not appear in the MR experience), Outings fans will recognize the same point-of-interest cards, now overlayed geographically against the rich, 3D terrain from Maps SDK.

The Outings MR sample app experience offers similar features to the mobile versions, with additional benefits via MR:

  • Discover points of interest via search or panning/zooming as the crow flies across a 3D, tabletop globe
  • Save favorite destinations to build a bucket list or travel itinerary
  • Explore famous natural and urban landmarks in 3D

The Maps SDK team polished the new experience and enhanced the SDK, incorporating feedback from the interns and Outings team, as well as other teams around Microsoft working on innovative 3D experiences. The team has already collected feedback from first-party developers, but is excited to open feedback up to third-party developers creating anything from productivity to entertainment experiences.

Try it now and share your feedback

Maps SDK is now available and accepting feedback via GitHub. The sample experience, Outings, is a UWP app for mixed reality headsets and HoloLens, and now available for download and feedback via the Microsoft Store.