Download Research Tools
For the past five years, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) has served as an enriching resource in schools, museums, planetariums, and homes all over the world, inspiring students and astronomy enthusiasts with its detailed views of the heavens and interactive educational content. In celebration of its fifth anniversary, we are pleased to unveil the 5.0 release of WorldWide Telescope at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., this week (January 5–9, 2014).
With this release, WWT offers powerful new features and includes access to exciting new data sets. The entire rendering system has been rewritten with cutting-edge technologies that give users a high-performance, cinematic experience. A new timeline editor provides tour authors with detailed control of camera motion, settings, and animation, allowing them to create sophisticated, smooth visual sequences with far less work. What’s more, WWT can now import and display highly detailed 3D models, and it even comes preloaded with several, including a high-fidelity representation of the International Space Station.Renderings of the planets and other bodies in the solar system also look better than ever, thanks to WWT 5.0’s new data sets. For instance, WWT 5.0 includes data about the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. For Mars and Earth, new models that show how sunlight interacts with the planetary atmospheres provide realistic visualization effects, including simulated sunrises and sunsets. In WWT’s 3D mode, you can search for an Earth-based location and instantly fly to it.Charting the sky has never been easier with WWT 5.0’s collection of new and enhanced overlays that work in both the Sky- and 3D-universe modes. For easier control of these overlays, WWT 5.0 integrates with any MIDI compatible device. Now you can map a slider to fade in the new Hevelius constellation set—or show a galactic grid on the Milky Way with a touch of a button. This customization extends to the Xbox 360 Support and Custom buttons in the View tab.Another new feature, which has captured the attention of some of the world’s premiere planetariums, enables full-dome tour authoring for seamless displays on complex single- or multi-projector domes. Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced detailed displays of the universe, powered by WorldWide Telescope, at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, as well as at other venues around the world. Moreover, the educational value of WWT extends well beyond the planetarium. The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors program supports formal educational programs that use WWT to teach students about the seasons, the planets, and the sky. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) debut of WorldWide Telescope 5.0 will include demos and informal talks for professional astronomers on the exhibit floor; in addition, several researchers and educators are giving lectures on WWT during the conference. Microsoft is a sponsor of the AAS Hack Day on January 9, featuring support and participation by WWT team members.You can learn more about WorldWide Telescope and download it for free at WorldWide Telescope. —Jonathan Fay, Principal Software Architect, Microsoft Research ConnectionsLearn more
Technology can play a key role in finding solutions to big problems. First, we have to build diverse teams of innovators to lead the way. Hackathons provide a great opportunity for anyone to experience coding and see how technology can be used to address serious issues. As I contemplate my New Year's resolutions, I hope to do all that I can to encourage everyone who has an interest in computing to participate in a hackathon—as either a hacker or a sponsor.
Microsoft Research was pleased to be a sponsor and supporter of Americas Datafest, a hackathon that took place in November 2013. The hackathon was organized by Teresa Bouza, Deputy Bureau Chief of EFE and Knight Fellow at Stanford University. Teresa believes that the rapid spread of mobile broadband has the potential to help us address the challenges facing society in a data-driven manner. To explore this potential, she brought together programmers, engineers, journalists, NGOs, data scientists, and others for a weekend of intense, multi-city collaboration to address important issues related to migration in the Americas.
The hackathon demonstrated that technology experts, working in partnership with subject matter experts, could generate creative and promising ideas that can make a difference. We know that events like these not only help grow the next generation of diverse computer scientists and innovators, but also communicate the message that technology can help solve the world’s greatest problems.
I'd like to hand this over to Teresa to discuss the event in more detail.
—Rane Johnson-Stempson, Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections
Before I begin, I would like to say a few words about the issue we wanted to address with Americas Datafest. While immigration to the United States may be the most visible aspect of migration in the Americas, human flows throughout the region are complex and evolving. For example, Mexico is becoming a destination country, thanks to its growing economy and there are significant patterns of population movement within Latin America.
The idea behind the hackathon was to inspire contestants to build apps that make public and crowd-sourced data accessible and useful for migrants. We also wanted to create tools that facilitate outreach and data collection by NGOs and researchers. Ultimately, such efforts can provide evidence to inform immigration policies across the region. I invited subject matter experts from the United Nations, the World Bank, and NGOs in the United States and Latin America to submit challenge topics, which our participants then used as a basis for brainstorming project ideas.
The event was held simultaneously in 20 cities across 11 countries and each location nominated two top teams for our global awards. Their projects covered a diverse range of ideas. Harvard students focused on facilitating immigrants’ integration. Other students from the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil built tools that can help migrants in general, whether they move domestically or abroad.
Health was another prominent subject. The team at Fusion, the new joint venture between ABC News and Univision, created a project that will allow the TV network’s audience to gather their personal data to improve their understanding of their own health; the aggregate data can be used to examine the major health issues within the demographic. Like this project, many of the projects can be adapted for other parts of the world.
The winning projects were:
¿Dónde estás?: A measurement and mapping tool to search for Central American migrants in Mexico
Health24: An application that helps migrants receive basic diagnoses and correctly identify and use over-the-counter drugs
Invio: A secure and easy-to-use mobile application that gives immigrants control over how and to whom their remittances are distributed
Migratio: A safety-focused database of migrants that includes tracking and geomapping features
Salvaviajes: An SMS/web communication platform for crowdsourcing alerts on migration-related issues within Central America and southern North America.
—Teresa Bouza, Deputy Bureau Chief at EFE, and Knight Fellow, Stanford University
Readers may be interested to note that the Microsoft Research International Women's Hackathon 2014 is scheduled to take place April 25 to 27, 2014, on university campuses around the world and live at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. At this year's event, participating women students have the opportunity to design a software application to address one of the following challenges: (1) increase women’s participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors, or (2) put a halt to texting while driving. For more information or get involved, visit International Women's Hackathon 2014.
I love my job, as I have the privilege of highlighting Microsoft Research Connections’ collaborations with some of the brightest minds at universities and research institutions around the world. And with so many inspiring projects, it’s difficult to pick my favorites—which is why I’m glad that your clicks can let us know which blogs most sparked your interest. So, here are the best of the best as selected by you: the 10 most widely read Microsoft Research Connections blogs of 2013.
Number 10: New cloud computing training for researchers worldwideToday’s data-intensive scientific research requires vast computing power—just what cloud computing provides. So no wonder a blog that announces free training on using Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, got a lot of attention. Did you miss this one? Well, it not too late to take advantage of the two-day training programs we offer at sites around the world. Read more...Number 9: Preserving Latin America’s WildlifeThe future is a little brighter for species that are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and climate change in Latin America. This blog highlights LiveANDES (Advanced Network for the Distribution of Endangered Species), a new tool that enables wildlife biologists, government officials, and citizen scientists to collect, house, and analyze data about Latin America’s wildlife. Read more... Number 8: Computerworld Honors Microsoft Research for Breakthroughs in Pneumonia and HIV Although it is gratifying to receive honors for using technology to promote positive social change, it’s not nearly as rewarding as knowing our research contributes to the fight against two scourges that affect millions around the world. This blog recounts our collaborative efforts towards improving the efficacy of pneumonia vaccinations and perfecting an effective vaccine against HIV infection. Read more...Number 7: Encouraging the next generation of women in computing It’s a sad fact that women students are woefully underrepresented among computer science majors, today comprising only 13 percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees in the field. While we recognize that no single person—or even single organization—can solve this problem, readers of this blog learned that programs like she++, a grassroots community that encourages women’s involvement in computing, just might. Read more... Number 6: Microsoft Research gives promising computer science faculty a boost This might strike a personal chord with many readers: how challenging it is for university faculty to get funding for innovative research—particularly in the early stages of their career. This blog describes how Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowships provide support that helps early-career academics in the field of computer science pursue their vision and make an impact. Read more... Number 5: Windows Azure for Research Remember the cloud computing training covered in our tenth most popular blog? Well, that training is just one part of an extensive initiative to empower researchers to use “cloud power” to tackle Big Data. This blog lays out the entire program, which includes grants, technical resources, and community engagements, as well as the aforementioned training events. Read more... Number 4: Confronting Global Grand Challenges Who can resist a blog whose title promises so much? Granted, it doesn’t promise to solve these challenges (now that would be a blog!), but this post frames the issues and highlights the efforts of a group of talented students to crack six of these grand trials. Plus, it offers wisdom from one of The Black Eyed Peas! Read more... Number 3: Join us in exploring the future of computing—virtually! Another intriguing title, underpinned by an irresistible invitation: to view and even engage in live online interviews with some the world’s foremost academic researchers during the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. Add the appeal of hearing Bill Gates field questions from the audience about the role of computing in solving global problems, and you’ve got a must-view event promoted in a must-read blog. Read more... Number 2: Kinect Fusion Boosts Kinect for Windows SDK Update Ever since its release, the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) has stimulated researchers’ imaginations and given rise to some outstanding advances in natural user interface (NUI) applications. So it’s no surprise that this blog, which provides information on the latest updates to the SDK, ranked number two on our top-10 list. Read more... Number 1: Try F#—Data Console to Big and Broad DataAnd here it is: the most widely read Microsoft Research Connections blog of 2013, a crowd pleaser that alerted readers to the latest release of resources that teach users to write F# code in their browser. The popularity of this blog implies that perhaps you should give Try F# a whirl if you haven’t already—and why not? It’s free. Read more...There you are—our top-10 list for 2013. I hope you’ve enjoyed our blogs over the past year, and I invite you to stay in touch in 2014 by following us on Twitter, Facebook, or Microsoft Research Connections, or by subscribing to our RSS feed.
Happy New Year from your friends at Microsoft Research Connections!—Lisa Clawson, Senior Manager, Microsoft Research ConnectionsLearn more