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The photorealistic 3D twin of the earth

The current Microsoft Flight Simulator is considered a spectacular technical achievement and was one of the sensations of the gaming year 2020. However, the real star of the game was neither the realistic flight feeling nor the many highly detailed aircraft models and airports, but the game world – a digital twin of our world in 3D, created with an AI-based technology by the start-up blackshark.ai from Graz.

by Tobias Imbach

What the Graz-based start-up blackshark.ai produced with the help of satellite images and artificial intelligence is unparalleled: a photorealistic twin of our earth, all buildings and vegetation in 3D. Even the CEOs of Nvidia and Microsoft wondered how such a thing is possible.

In the podcast, blackshark CEO & Co-Founder Michael Putz talks about the journey of his company, which started as a games company and now finds applications for its technology far beyond the boundaries of the virtual gaming world.



  • Determining whether pixels belong to a roof, door or window used to require human interpretation – blackshark makes those pixels machine-readable.
  • We wanted to identify every single building on the planet, every single tree, and create it in 3D.
  • We feed an AI with all this information, for example the number of residents in the area around an unknown building or the number of air conditioners on the building, and get an educated guess of what kind of building it is.
  • We managed to identify and reconstruct more than 1.5 billion buildings and more than 30 million square kilometers of vegetation, all in 3D.
  • When the CEOs of Microsoft and Nvidia called us to find out how we solved such a fundamental problem, it was clear to me that the application of this technology goes far beyond traditional gaming.
  • Outside the gaming world, in the real world – this is where our technology can really shine.
  • We have ethical concerns that our technology could be used for autonomous weapons systems.
  • Games are at the spearhead of technology.


Technological progress is unstoppable and continues to bring revolutions and produce incredible results. Some recent examples:

AI & data make it possible to detect breast cancer at an early stage.
Learn more in our Golden Like for Viktoria Prantauer.

AI helps the pharma industry find new drugs.
Find out how, in this article.

A virtual advisor helps companies with the foundation process.
Find out more here.

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Michael Putz

blackshark.ai, Graz

Michael Putz is the CEO and co-founder of blackshark.ai. After graduating from Graz University of Technology, he founded the Graz-based game studio Bongfish in 2007.

Ten years later, he received a request from Microsoft: The software giant wanted an authentic digital version of the Earth in 3D for its next flight simulator. Michael Putz and his team then worked on a technology that could generate a 3D world from flat satellite images – with success. In 2019, they founded the start-up blackshark.ai.


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