Architecture + Strategy

Musings from David Chou - Architect, Microsoft

Olympics on Silverlight

Olympics on Silverlight

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Official logo of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games

08.08.08 - after 7 years of preparation and anticipation, the XXIX Olympiad has finally opened in Beijing. What a spectacular opening ceremony it was. And such breathtaking architectures of the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium and "Water Cube" Aquatics Center. It's hard even just to imagine the amount of thought and hard work that went into creating these phenomenal achievements.

Side Note on Physical Structures

Just want to take the opportunity to talk a little about these two eye-popping buildings.

The "Bird's Nest", completed just in March 2008, at one point had more than 7,000 workers toiling around the clock. Its most significant feature is the seemingly random lattice of interwoven steel used for the stadium exterior, which resembles the structure of a bird's nest. The unconventional design also brought a set of new issues to address during its construction. For example, the activities of welding sections of the steel structures together had to take place during specific times of the day, such that the structure is put together at a temperature that can accommodate the wide range of expansions and contractions of the steel structures caused by temperature changes throughout the year in Beijing.

South view of the Stadium, May 2008..

The "Water Cube", completed at the end of 2007, is very interesting from the perspective of its "green" design, with the use of ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) air cushions for its enclosure (instead of concrete/steel and/or huge glass panels. ETFE is essentially a form of plastic but doesn't burn due to the existence of fluoride in the material which chemically shields oxygen molecules.

Image:BirdnestWatercube.jpg

The "bubble" design was reportedly inspired by the natural geometric shapes formed by soap bubbles. It provides natural lighting, insulation, and requires less steel structure to support than glass panels. The insulation is achieved by a sophisticated air pump system that maintains the pressure in the ETFE bubbles, resulting in major savings in heating costs during snowy winters in Beijing. During the summer, a ventilation system is used.

In addition, the "Water Cube" was designed with water-saving and environmental protection efforts. According to statistics, the outer surface and roof facade can "collect" 10,000 tons of rain water, 70,000 tons of clean water and 60,000 tons of swimming pool water annually. And the venue can also save 140,000 tons of recycled water a year.

The Online Experience

In the online world, we also have the much publicized partnership between NBC and Microsoft to bring the Olympics event coverage on to the Internet. It is reported that NBC will be streaming more than 3,500 hours of video content, including live coverage of every minute of competition from 25 sports. The sheer scale and magnitude of this project makes it the largest media event on the Web, so far.

The NBC Olympics video site lives exclusively on the MSN network, and is designed to handle more than 2.3 terabytes/second of traffic. Silverlight 2 is the core technology behind the Olympics video player and provides the high-quality, interactive experience.

But that's not all. Here are all the ways you can experience the 2008 Summer Olympics from Microsoft and NBC:

  • Online Video - Click http://www.nbcolympics.com/video to jump right in and experience high-quality, interactive video using Silverlight.  Get HD quality video on the web that’s optimized using Silverlight’s adaptive streaming capability, watch up to four live streams simultaneously in the same player, and get expert commentary, etc.
  • MSN.com - MSN homepage will feature an Olympics module which will enable people to see results (or hide them if you don’t want any spoilers), get the latest news and see exclusive video coverage. Also implemented using Silverlight
  • MSN Toolbar - Install the new MSN Toolbar that gives you one click access to the medal tally and many other highlights. Also implemented using Silverlight
  • Live Search - Get the latest medal counts by sport or by country, or find out about all 10,000 of the athletes competing in the 2008 Summer Games
  • Zune - Starting on 8/9, Zune Marketplace will kick off a series of daily 2008 Olympic Games videos from NBC Sports, giving viewers special on-the-go access to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
  • XBOX - XBOX users will be able to purchase and download a daily wrap-up of the day’s events from NBC Sports, with a complete wrap-up at the end of the Games
  • Windows Media Center - NBC Olympics On The Go provides downloads for 200+ hours of catch-up TV programming, with coverage of approximately 24 sports, the full opening ceremony, and a closing ceremony montage

Some screenshots of the Silverlight-based enhanced video player on nbcolympics.com.

Below is the enhanced player streaming the live men's cycling event, a separate concurrent video stream in picture-in-picture (PIP) mode, and live commentary on the lower right hand corner.

Olympics-SL2-3

And the "Control Room" section (toggled by the top button on the left panel) which allows concurrent streaming of 4 separate live streams. I only have a 3MB pipe at home but they were all playing smoothly. Silverlight's adaptive streaming capability really helped in this case.

Olympics-SL2-2

And look - DRM (Digital Rights Management)! ;)

Olympics-SL2-4

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  • Now that Silverlight 2 is at the Olympics and making a big splash, we wanted to explore this fascinating technology more. Microsoft Silverlight 2 is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based

  • Now that Silverlight 2 is at the Olympics and making a big splash, we wanted to explore this fascinating technology more. Microsoft Silverlight 2 is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based

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