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Sneak Peek at Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope 120

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the eye-on-the-sky dept.
Ted.com has a great sneak peek at Microsoft's new WorldWide Telescope project. In this video, presented by Roy Gould and Curtis Wong, you are able to see a combined view of satellites and telescopes from all over the planet and nearby space. The compiled image is rendered using Microsoft's new high-performance "Visual Experience Engine" that allows users to pan and zoom across the night sky seamlessly.
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Sneak Peek at Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope

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  • why don't they just combine it with DRM and get the full packages - watching us, watching them, watching us...
  • This article has got to be a hose. I mean, Microsoft doing something both useful and cool?

    Well, as they say: even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then...

  • The Video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aembleton (324527) <{aembleton} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:07AM (#22614908) Homepage
    Curtis Wong explains what you can do, 5.15 into the video. Before that it is a load of boring talk about how it will allow us all to explore the universe and increase our understanding, etc but with some cool pictures of what you can expect to see from the world wide telescope. It will be a free download this spring from http://worldwidetelescope.org/ [worldwidetelescope.org]

    I for one, am looking forward to this. I'm sure someone will ask if it can run on Linux. I've no idea, but I can't see it being that hard for Wine to get it working.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      I especially like the part where it says its the biggest thing to happen to astronomy since Gallileo. I didn't think TED was about cheerleading for corporate Johnny-Come-Latelies.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      You know, I'd be surprised if it runs on XP, let alone Linux.

      I'm the "Microsoft Visual Experience Engine" has some core dependency like DirectX 10, or whatever, that is a big pain in the ass to port. (Not to mention, corporate strategies behind Vista and all that).
  • In related news Microsoft has issued a press release indicating that users looking up are taking revenue from Microsoft, who now owns the copyright to 100% of the sky. "As we all know DRM is a critical issue today. If people could just look up any time they pleased there would be no need for our new software. Innovation would be stiffled and we have scientists who say the sky might fall." said Microsoft product manager I M ATwat. "For many years we at Microsoft have endured casual astronomers looking up at
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mdenham (747985)
      Can't copyright the sky; it's public domain to begin with. Can't patent it, as there are numerous examples of prior art. Unless MS is planning on getting into the aerospace industry (always a possibility; watch for falling flaming debris) why would they actually do this? So their programmers can actually see what it looks like outside?

      Also, I want to report a bug with the sky software. Sometimes this giant ball of fire becomes visible, and looking at it hurts my eyes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Maybe they've got sanity projects for their programmers: let them do cool stuff, too, every once in a while. Maybe they just figure it's worth making investments on neat tech without quite knowing for sure what it will end up being used for. If anyone's got enough resources to do that, it's MS.
        • MS has been doing this kind of high concept demo's for years to provide real life examples of tech they hope to apply elsewhere - many people forget the first big mapping/aerial/satellite photography database on the web wasn't Google Maps, or Yahoo Maps, or any of the other big names today... It was Microsoft's Terraserver. (Which is still quite useful because one of it's layers is topo maps.)
      • by Sporkinum (655143)
        Can't copyright the sky; it's public domain to begin with.

        Take my love. Take my land.
        Take me where I cannot stand.
        I don't care, I'm still free.
        You can't take the sky from me.

        Take me out to the black.
        Tell 'em I ain't comin' back.
        Burn the land And boil the sea.
        You can't take the sky from me.

        Have no place I can be since I found Serenity.
        But you can't take the sky from me.
  • Looks a lot like the also free Celestia:

    http://www.shatters.net/celestia/ [shatters.net]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestia [wikipedia.org]
    • Not true... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:51AM (#22615014)
      ...kindly RTFA: it consists of actual imagery, not a model of the imagery like Celestia... (karma whoring: off)
      • The guy in the video behaves like he, i'm sorry, Microsoft Microsoft Microsoft, invented the Philosopher's Stone. The only difference between them and a free project like Celestia is, the "scientists" from MS have the money to buy the newest space images. But "new" is something else.
      • by cmacb (547347)

        ..kindly RTFA: it consists of actual imagery, not a model of the imagery like Celestia... (karma whoring: off)

        Yes, but why is this being presented as as advantage over 3D modeling?

        To answer my own question: A program like Celestia allows you to see hundreds of thousands of stars (or however many are in the database you are using). It allows you to "fly" to those stars, turn around and look back at our star from them, or see star configurations that are familiar to us on earth from other perspectives. Wha

  • Microsoft searching for heavenly inspiration on what to do with Vista?
  • The technology looks very cool, but Microsoft just can't resist spinning even where there doesn't seem to be any need at all. Check out the FAQ at worldwidetelescope: http://worldwidetelescope.org/buzz/FAQ.aspx [worldwidetelescope.org]

    Q. When did Microsoft first starting looking at the sky?
    A. For 16 years, Microsoft has invested, and will continue to invest, in long-term, broad-based research through Microsoft Research. WorldWide Telescope is built on work that started with Jim Gray's SkyServer and his contributions to Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    Sky Server (a portal to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) was first released in 2001. Aside from the poor grammar in the question, reading that answer just made my skin crawl...

  • by gsn (989808) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:45AM (#22614996)
    I've been very lucky to see this project from alpha to present because one of friends interned with the group and introduced me to them - its gone through some amazing development - I remember seeing this I think early 2007 - it looked more like Stellarium than anything else but just plane black with solid circles for stars and galaxies. It took forever to load images when you zoomed in. Must have crashed about 30 times in a five minute demo.

    Jonathan Fay (of MaximDL fame) showed it off at Table Mountain Star Party last year and they'd moved from that sky to a synthetic pre-rendered sky that would transition to real images from Hubble or other sources as you zoomed in.

    Saw it again at the American Astronomical Society Meeting this January in Austin and really got to play with it since they were right alongside the Harvard IIC booth. It was the first time they were using real imagery for the entire sky and it looked amazing and Jonathan was touting the tour facility.

    Its biggest trick in my mind though you didn't see in the video - one little slider that takes you from the Optical to the Infrared and Microwave and X-Ray sky. Simply blew me away.

    It already supports VOTable and FITS images and dozens of other formats that astronomers use and are becoming standards for enthusiastic hobbyists. You can take your own images and put them up on the same sky as data from Chandra or Swift or the best ground based data from MMT or Magellan or Keck. Now it starts to get really useful. The CfA at Harvard has been digitizing its old plates of sky images, Pan-STARRS will start operating sooner rather than later, SDSS has a ton of data already and LSST will be up in a few years imaging the entire sky every few nights. This is a monstrous amount of data and the system really gives you a way to search through it all very intuitively. I'd love the ability to click on a star in the sky and have all known spectra of it pop up along with references. Not quite there yet but it will be.

    This also makes it the best educational tool. There are projects like Las Cumbres and several schools and colleges have access to telescopes so this gives you a great tool with which to look at data and take your own data and do it in a way that doesn't require you learning how to use NED and SIMBAD and looking for papers on ADS. But I think the biggest thing it does is just blow you away with a sense of how large everything is, or perhaps how small you are in relation and I think that is a very powerful idea. I remember the first time I saw the Eames Power of Ten video - this takes that to a different level and is genuinely thought provoking.

    Quite simply the best thing I've ever seen out of Microsoft.
    • by mbone (558574)
      Its biggest trick in my mind though you didn't see in the video - one little slider that takes you from the Optical to the Infrared and Microwave and X-Ray sky. Simply blew me away.

      What about time ? Is there a means of moving forward and backwards in time ? (A lot of the interest in the Harvard Sky Patrol plate, for example, is that they sample the sky in the past.)
  • I'm not sure if that was just a lame demo, but that "telescope" is really not a big deal.

    It's basically one of the application I already had installed in my Linux box for years, but only with a bigger database. That can surely not be accounted as an invention, and certainly not as big an invention as the telescope 400 years ago.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      You have had an application on your linux box that has access to very up-to-date images of the sky? That allows you to move around seamlessly from one celestial body to the next, shifting the spectrum of the images to view planets/stars as you go? To save a tour and publish it for others to see? Don't get me wrong, there are some decent astronomy packages on Linux, but this is something new entirely.
  • Google Earth has had something like this for a long time now. Is this any better or is it just an expression of Microsoft's fear of Google and need to "me too" everything Google does?
    • Google Earth has had something like this for a long time now.

      Not really - because Google Sky is a fixed map.
       
       

      Is this any better or is it just an expression of Microsoft's fear of Google and need to "me too" everything Google does?

      This a) much better and b) you really need to pay attention to who is "me too"ing. (Google Maps, for example, was a "me too" from Microsoft Terraserver.)
      • by adpowers (153922)
        If Google Maps was a "me too" project, then it was for MapQuest or Yahoo Maps. I was a big user of Terraserver back in the day, but Google Maps initially launched with just street maps, it didn't have any satellite views. Also, Google was the first to put a really useable interface on internet street maps.
  • exactly how will this help me find and/or download porn? Wake me up when Microsoft buys the guys who invented the worldwide porn telescope, then I'll be impressed.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Wake me up when Microsoft buys the guys who invented the worldwide porn telescope, then I'll be impressed.
      And perhaps that should never be given smelloscope functionality...? Or perhaps that's exactly what it should have...?
  • by LS (57954) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @10:43AM (#22615276) Homepage
    On a related note, Jim Gray [microsoft.com], the researcher behind the WorldWide Telescope, recently went missing [microsoft.com] on a sailing expedition. The search has already been suspended.

    LS
    • by aembleton (324527)
      Thanks for adding that. I didn't realise he had gone missing and hope he is found soon.

      A website has been set up as part of the search effort: http://www.helpfindjim.com/ [helpfindjim.com]
    • by sponga (739683)
      After those huge storms up north that sent that massive swell all down the coast of California; I find it unlikely he is alive.
      Still don't give up though and good luck as I have seen his sail boat docked in Catalina harbor before while cruising to shore.

      Sailing must be much more dangerous up north with all the massive ships and quick storms that kick up.
  • I can't wait til they start changing the constellations.

    LoB
    • Are you suggesting burning the land and boiling the sea are also in MSFTs plans?
      • by Locutus (9039)

        Are you suggesting burning the land and boiling the sea are also in MSFTs plans?
        more like already attempted and partially implemented by purchasing competitors only to terminate their product lines along with promoting patent FUD via SCO and then their own IP threats/FUD. So yes, they have been working on burning the land and boiling the seas for quite some time.

        LoB
        • I've got to try that sometime.

          "Are you suggesting that [bad thing]"

          More like Microsoft DRM Information wants to be free FUD You cannot steal an idea, only infringe on it SCO Intellectual Property is evil P2P They stole Apple's idea and manipulated them into giving them copyrights OOXML Convicted Monopolist! So yes, [bad thing], for quite some time.
  • I hate to be so reactive to the things I have recently seen, but I wonder what would happen if you exposed this system to the autistic community? It seems like a lot of data that would do well to be digested by someone predisposed to taking it all in at once.
  • by Salsaman (141471)
    I tried it, but all I could see was the Blue Sky of Death !
  • Call me a luddite, but I really don't like flash.
  • "We can see all the way out to the edge of the observable universe." ...is that so? Amazing.
    • It wasn't true just a few decades ago.
      • by omarius (52253)
        Then wasn't the "observable universe" just smaller? Or does the term refer to light that could possibly reach us during the age of the universe?
        • Yep, it's maximum distance we can see without light getting too caught up in the early, dense universe. I guess the observable universe would be slightly smaller back then also, but probably not noticeably. It's kinda strange because it's always been "observable" as in it is potentially feasible to see this light, but we weren't "able-to-observe" until more recently...or at least distinguish it.
  • Check out the home page [worldwidetelescope.org] of the WWTelescope.

    Is anyone else feeling absolutely creeped out by the "kids react to WWT" video?
  • And in terms of user experience, this is different from any of the leading planetarium software in what way?
  • Will it run on Linux? No?

    Ho Hum.

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