Microsoft To Announce WorldWide Telescope On February 27

A source close to Microsoft says the company will launch new desktop software called WorldWide Telescope on February 27 at the TED Conference in Monterey, California. Our guess is that this is what Robert Scoble was talking about last week when he said he saw a new Microsoft project that brought him to tears.

The service will be accessed through a downloadable application – Windows only for now is what we hear. Users will be able to pan around the nighttime sky and zoom as far in to any one area as the data will allow. Microsoft is said to be tapping the Hubble telescope as well as ten or so earth bound telescopes around the world for data. When you find an area you like, you can switch to a number of different views, such as infrared and non-visible light.

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.

Look for an announcement at TED, and more at Microsoft’s upcoming TechFest in early March.

What’s Microsoft Offering Open Source On February 27?

First Scoble writes about something so amazing from Microsoft it makes him cry and will be world changing. Then Long Zheng spots the above page via an email pitch linking to opensourcehero that redirects here.

What open source something will Microsoft forge on February 27 that will be world changing and make Scoble cry? I read Scoble’s post again (either I didn’t read it all the first time, or he has since added to it) and pulled out some more clues:

  • Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay both work on the Next Media team at Microsoft. The team does the following:

    Microsoft Next Media Research group focuses on exploring what new consumer media experiences are possible with the growth in computing power, connectivity and storage in a compelling, elegant and transparent way in the 3 to 10 year timeframe. The group envisions consumer information and entertainment experiences not available today and builds or combines technologies from other Microsoft Research groups and crafts intuitive user interfaces and compelling scenarios to deliver that experience. Rather than focus on old media or new media, the group attempts to develop working prototypes of the Next forms of media possible from new convergent technologies, hence the name.

  • Scoble said there isn’t a business model with what ever this is, supporting the tie in with the open source announcement the same day
  • Scoble again: “Could they have done this at a Silicon Valley startup? I doubt it. Venture Capitalists won’t see enough business value in what they are doing.” Which means it’s not a product that will sell, more likely an interface or way of doing something, and again, likely to be released open source
  • Scoble: “If I told you today what they were doing, without showing you the video we’ll have up on March 3, you’d tell me “that’s lame Scoble.” It’s 100% involved visually, and likely interface related.
  • Scoble: “Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, was the first to tell me about,” ActiveWords knows about it, and is an interface improvement provider.
  • Scoble: “In Wong and Fey’s work you’ll see techniques that lots of startups are using and, even, that the Google Map team is using,” got to be visual, possibly 3D.
  • commenter on Scoble’s blog:

    I don’t know if this has anything to do with what Robert is talking about, but its interesting to note Wong and Fay worked on this:

    The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) project is designed to be an extensible learning and exploration environment which integrates hyperlinked rich media narrative with a seamless multiple survey virtual sky to enable guided and unguided exploration of the universe.

In my earlier post on Scoble crying I guessed Silverlight or online Office. It might be something powered by Silverlight, but I’m now changing my predictions. It’s either an amazing online astronomy program, or it’s heavily interface related to I don’t know what. Guesses given where Fey and Curtis work: media management in images, audio and video.