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The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

ChronoZoom Named Top Educational Resource at 2013 SXSW Interactive

ChronoZoom Named Top Educational Resource at 2013 SXSW Interactive

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When Microsoft Research teamed up with the University of California Berkeley to create a digital tool for exploring the history of everything, we knew we had the potential to build a killer educational app. After all, a tool that can reveal the cross-currents of history, revealing the interdependencies that cut across disciplines, geographies, and cultures, would offer a major advance in the understanding of Big History—the history of not just humanity, but of life, Earth and, ultimately, the cosmos. Moreover, it would provide researchers with a tool to derive unique insights based on multidisciplinary connections between vastly disparate data sets.

ChronoZoom wins the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education

On March 12, the resulting tool, ChronoZoom—a dynamic, zoomable timeline that starts with Big Bang and ends with modern history—won first prize in the Educational Resources category of the 2013 SXSW Interactive Awards. As described on the SXSW website, the SXSW Interactive Awards competition “uncovers the best new digital work, from mobile and tablet apps to websites and installations, while celebrating those who are building tomorrow's interactive trends.”

ChronoZoom was developed to make time relationships between different studies of history clear and vivid. In the process, it provides a framework for exploring related electronic resources. It thus serves as a “master timeline,” tying together all kinds of specialized timelines and electronic resources, and aspires to bridge the gap between humanities and the sciences and to bring together and unify all knowledge of the past. With the planned addition of in-browser content and authoring tools, we hope to enable educators and researchers to build timelines; explore rich, multidisciplinary contextual spaces; and to tell and share stories based on authoritative data.

Donald Brinkman, Roland Saekow, and Michael Zyskowski accept the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education
Donald Brinkman, Roland Saekow, and Michael Zyskowski accept the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education 

The prestigious SXSW Interactive Award for Education recognizes the educational value of this amazing open-source product. Moreover, it honors the multidisciplinary team that came together to make ChronoZoom a reality: software engineers, program managers, and project leaders at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington, and students and professors at Moscow State University in Russia and at UC Berkeley and University of Washington in the United States. This distributed team developed cutting-edge HTML5 and JavaScript code and implemented services on Windows Azure to create a rich, visual database full of historical events and timelines.

The ChronoZoom project is part of the Outercurve Foundation’s Research Accelerators Gallery. The Outercurve Foundation, a non-profit, open-source foundation, provides software IP management and project development governance to 22 open-source projects.  Developers can get involved by visiting the source code project on GitHub.

In his acceptance speech, Michael Zyskowski dedicated the award to Lee Dirks, who strongly believed in and supported the ChronoZoom project.

I encourage you to experience the power of ChronoZoom for yourself. But be forewarned—it can be addictive!

Donald Brinkman, Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections


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  • Congrats from the team @Outercurve!

  • Congratultions, Don.

  • ChronoZoom is a digital tool built with HTML5 and Azure for exploring the history of everything and it

  • Congratulations to all!  What a magnificent effort and well-deserved honor.

  • ChronoZoom challenge: visualize history and win Enter a Microsoft competition to create visualizations that use ChronoZoom datasets and provide new functions that have been requested by educators and students. The competition combines games, art, technology

  • Warming up to a new tool for teaching climate change Professor Jeff Dozier is using ChronoZoom to illustrate changes in the Earth’s climate from the beginning of the planet through modern day. Learn how this open-source community project helps students

  • Warming up to a new tool for teaching climate change Professor Jeff Dozier is using ChronoZoom to illustrate changes in the Earth’s climate from the beginning of the planet through modern day. Learn how this open-source community project helps students

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