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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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February 14, 2008 2:44 PM

Is Scoble crying about Microsoft's Space-Time Machine?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Even though he's gone old media, Robert Scoble can still stoke the blogosphere. Today he's doing it by teasing a Microsoft Research project that will be announced on Feb. 27.

Scoble said it's world-changing, and he squidged out a tear during the demo ...

I wonder if Scoble saw the World Wide Telescope, a tool for exploring the earth and sky via a computer, using Microsoft's advanced technology for zooming in and out of huge image collections to create a virtual reality experience.

It's amazing by itself and has drawn plenty of attention and imitation. But the tool gets even better when you add a time axis. That's what Microsoft and Harvard have been working on, using vast collections of time-stamped images.

Stitched together and served up by Microsoft's image manipulation technology and superfast databases, the system should let you zoom not just through the sky but also backward through time.

At Harvard, the idea was to take advantage of a century of astronomical images that are being digitized and related projects to create a "national virtual observatory" and collect and share "time series observations."

From a Harvard description of the project:

"Now, through the judicious application of cutting-edge computational technologies, we believe we can literally create a Space-Time Machine the likes of which the world has never seen, by combining these three efforts with the World Wide Telescope project at Microsoft Research."

Scoble didn't say anything about the nature of the project, but he said the demo was given by Jonathan Fay, who is the principal research software design engineer on the WorldWide Telescope project, and Curtis Wong, manager of Microsoft's "Next Media" research group, which has been working on an interactive image viewer called HD View.

I'm just guessing here, but I wonder if a version will be made available to the public on a Web site using Microsoft's Silverlight platform. It's perfect timing, since Microsoft will be pitching its Web technologies the following week at its Mix design and technology conference starting March 5 in Las Vegas.

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