Monday, February 18, 2008

I didn't find my voice in WorldWide Telescope

Robert Scoble made a mysterious post a few days back:

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.

Well, remember when something had a great buildup...and we ended up with ALF? That's how I felt after reading this TechCrunch post today:

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....

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....

Last year [Jonathan] Fay gave a presentation called “”The WorldWide Telescope, bringing the Universe to a PC near you.” In 1993, [Curtis] 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.

Remember how I said in my earlier post that it was hard for me to recommend particular Disneyland/California Adventure attractions because different people are interested in different things? I think that's part of what's going on here. While I'm sure that telescope views on your PC are cool, I am personally more interested in the joys of Google Earth - being able to see places that I have visited, as well as places where I want to visit. If I have a choice between looking at Espoo, Schmelz, and Rombach vs. looking at stars, I'm gonna look at the earth-bound cities.

But if you really want to cry...


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