Posted by: Marshall Sponder | February 18, 2008

Robert Scoble cries over the Microsoft World Wide Telescope Project – me thinks

Robert Scoble cried recently when seeing this Microsoft To Announce WorldWide Telescope On February 27 – at least, this is what I think (and I’m not alone).

Scoble wrote on Valentine’s day that Microsoft researchers make me cry

“….It’s not often that I see software that really changes my world. It’s even rarer that I see software that I know will change the world my sons live in. I can count those times pretty easily. The first time I saw an Apple II in 1977. When Richard Cameron showed me Apple’s Hypercard. Microsoft’s Excel. Aldus’ Pagemaker. And something called Photoshop, all in his West Valley Community College classroom. Later when I saw Marc Andreessen’s Netscape running the WWW. ICQ and Netmeeting which laid the ground for Skype.

Like I said, these things don’t happen often.

Yesterday was one of those days. Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay, researchers at Microsoft, fired up their machines and showed me something that I can’t tell you about until February 27th. I’m sure you’ll read about his work in the New York Times or TechCrunch, among other places. It’s too inspiring to stay a secret for long.

While watching the demo I realized the way I look at the world was about to change. While listening to Wong I noticed a tear running down my face. It’s been a long while since Microsoft did something that had an emotional impact on me like that.”

I’m not getting it yet – maybe I need to see the demo – first.  According to what I read in TechCrunch:

“…Dan Farber posted his own educated guess that the project might be WorldWide Telescope, based on the fact that Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay were involved, and he’s right. Last year Fay gave a presentation called “”The WorldWide Telescope, bringing the Universe to a PC near you.” In 1993, Wong started a project called “John Dobson’s Universe,” a virtual sky tour on a CD-ROM, narrated by John Dobson. The two began working together at Microsoft in 2005.

From what we hear, WorldWide Telescope will be significantly better than Google Sky, which launched last August as part of Google Earth, and the open source Stellarium (which is hugely better than Google Sky already). The key is the user interface, which is seamless as you move around the sky and zoom in and out. Much of the Photosynth technology is said to have been used for the project. And the sheer amount of data Microsoft is accessing, said to be measured in the terabits, gives that great user interface something to show off.”

This is what might be shown, in a much more refined way, in about 10 days, at the TED Conference (another one that I wish I was invited to – Scoble gets to go to all the best ones, including LeWeb3, Davos and TED – and I just got to go to LeWeb3 – oh well, next year(s):

“…The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) project is designed to be an extensible learning and exploration environment which integrates hyper linked rich media narrative with a seamless multiple survey virtual sky to enable guided and unguided exploration of the universe.  WWT is a collaboration between Next Media Research (Principal Researcher and group manager Curtis Wong,  Principal Research Software Design Engineer Jonathan Fay and Jina Suh Research Intern), Alex Szalay at  Johns Hopkins University, Alyssa Goodman at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics, and Frank Summers at Space Telescope Science Institute. 

The vision for WWT began in 1993 Curtis’ production of a CD-ROM called “John Dobson’s Universe”  which was never completed but featured a number of narrated tours within a virtual sky and included a talk that John Dobson recorded at Table Mountain in 1993.  Curtis worked closely with Jim Gray and Alex Szalay in 2002 to develop the SkyServer Website to facilitate public access to the images and data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.  SkyServer was always conceived of as the foundation towards building the World Wide Telescope.  In early 2005 Curtis developed the collaborations with Harvard and STSCI and hired Jonathan Fay in late 2005 to utilize his experience in astronomical imaging and building interactive visualizations for TeraServer to architect and build the technology for WWT. “

I’m imaging what this great interface is going to be like – I’ll be checking for this at the end of the month.



  1. I’ll cry too if it doesn’t work on a Macintosh.

  2. I remember when MS came out with the first satellite mapping app, I believe it was TerraServer. It was fascinating, but never had great commercial success because it was a bit slow even over high bandwidth and they hadn’t integrated mapping apps on top of it like Google did when they launched Google Maps.

    That being said, I’m dying to see what MS unveils

  3. […] To find more information from the source here […]

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