March, 2013

Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

eScience & Technical Computing - Web Services and Scientific Research

March, 2013

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Connecting the Science dots at TechFest 2013


    During this years annual Microsoft Research TechFest, where Microsoft Research exposes compelling research projects to employees and guests, there are a couple Science related projects being highlighted.  The Computational Ecology and Environmental Science (CEES) group at our Microsoft Research Cambridge lab is demoing some very interesting projects.

    Geo-Database Applications at the Speed of Thought

    In 2012, Microsoft formed a unique partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. Central to the partnership is creating the Red List Threat Mapping Tool -- a spatial database application that enables experts and decision-makers around the world to find, map, explore, add, modify, and notate the various threats to any focal species. This SQL Server 2012 application enables visitors to query global biodiversity, protected area, and threat databases in real time. New software is being built to make it easy for anyone to construct these kinds of geo-data applications "at the speed of thought," without having to write a line of code. The software natively understands spatial data and spatial search, introduces a new, iterative search method, and produces databases that remain flexible, so that all aspects of the database and the application can be modified at any time.

    Predictive Decision-Making at the Speed of Thought

    Since 2007, the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science (CEES) group at Microsoft Research Cambridge has been pursuing the fundamental research needed to build predictive models of critical global environmental systems. Such predictions are needed urgently at a variety of scales—and to support effective decision-making, they must include uncertainty. In recent years, the philosophy of how to make such predictions has become clear: A “defensible modeling pipeline” is needed in which data and models are integrated in a Bayesian context and which is transparent and repeatable enough to stand up in court. The technology, though, is lagging far behind, making this pipeline impossible to build for all but the most technically savvy. Enter CEES Distribution Modeler, a browser app that enables users to visualize data, define a complex model, parameterize it using Bayesian methods, make predictions with uncertainty, and then share all that in a fully transparent and repeatable form.

    TechFest 2013 - Microsoft Research

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Two Big Telescopes in Austin for SXSW and one Big Screen


    Today starts South by Southwest Interactive and the Worldwide Telescope team is working with NASA and the SpaceWP_20130308_025 Telescope Science Institute to delivery a exhibit around the James Webb Space Telescope that is close to out of this world.   There is the full scale model of the JWST and the wall sized display of the Worldwide Telescope. 


    Seeing Your World Through a Different Light

    WorldWide Telescope at South by SouthwestAs the saying goes: everything is bigger in Texas. And coming this weekend, March 8 to 10, there will be a couple of Texas-sized telescopes at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin. Housed in the mammoth NASA Experience Tent, a wall-sized display will show off Microsoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT), demonstrating the amazing capabilities of the world’s largest virtual telescope. Outside, on the lawn of the Long Center, there will be a full-scale model of the next generation of the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—a truly impressive piece of engineering that’s the size of a tennis court.

    Microsoft Research is partnering with NASA, Northrop Grumman, and the Space Telescope Science Institute to offer a truly interactive exhibit, with University of Austin astronomy students on hand to show off details of the JWST model on Microsoft Surface devices. Meanwhile, WWT will provide festival goers with an immersive virtual experience as they fly through the universe and explore the planets and stars. As you may know, the WWT brings together imagery from the world’s best ground and space-based telescopes and combines it with 3-D navigation. It also includes guided tours of interesting places in the sky, created and narrated by astronomers and educators.


    Microsoft Research Connections Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Behind the WorldWide Telescope Theater at SXSW


    This WorldWide Telescope at South by Southwestpast weekend at SXSW, Microsoft and the WorldWide Telescope team worked with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the Space Telescope Science Institute to deliver a one of a kind exhibit around the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). 

    The two main anchors of the exhibit was the physical model of the JWST and the WorldWide Telescope Theater.  Over the 3 days the WWT Theater hosted over 70 talks using WWT Tours, PowerPoint, and live Skype QnAs – all on a 20 million pixel wall sized display wall.  

    Behind the scenes – this immersive experience was pulled together by Microsoft WP_20130308_005Research and our partners for the theater – Epson, NVIDA and Scalable Display Technologies.  The 8 Epson projectors worked flawlessly pumping out pixels for over 14 hours a day and this was in a tent without air conditioning and lots of humidity – especially during the first two days of rain.  The 8 projectors were driven by 2 NVIDIA Quadro K5000’s in a single PC.   The display wall needed the DirectX 11 support to show off the latest WWT Eclipse Alpha build that leverages DX11.  Delivering all those pixels to the display wall was one piece, but to make the images seamless and immersive the Scalable Display Manager (SDM) was used.  The (SDM) software with it’s EasyBlend technology, made it a snap to wrap and blend the pixels coming from the individual projectors into a really seamless experience. 

    This whole setup allowed the team to utilize the wall as a very, very large WP_20130310_023Windows desktop and take advantage of all the Windows applications for the presentations – including

    • PowerPoint 2013, which takes advantage of DirectX and hardware acceleration and was able to handle the unique aspect ratio so the whole display was used for content
    • Skype – probably the largest Skype image for Skype session on a desktop you’ve ever seen
    • OneNote 2013 – used for displaying notes and twitter names for a NASA Social at SXSWWP_20130310_001
    • SkyDrive – was used to deliver PowerPoint presentations and WorldWide Telescope Tours to machine driving the display wall and kept them in sync – so edits were always captured
    • WorldWide Telescope – used to deliver tours exclusive created for the JWST SXSW exhibit. 

    While most of you might not need to create a wall sized display like this one – it shows how desktop technologies created for Windows scales to create immersive experiences.  Let me know if you decide to create one….

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