Story Telling In The Stars and In The Cloud

There’s more to the WorldWide Telescope than just being one of the most beautiful and seamless stargazing experiences available and on Monday of the NextMEDIA conference in Toronto, Curtis Wong, a Principle Researcher at Microsoft Research spoke of the story telling elements that had been an influence on the design of the software.

Wong, whose longtime focus has been on creating digital learning experiences and storytelling, explained to the audience at NextMEDIA the challenge of telling stories in context, the importance of story telling, and the architecture of the narrative of the experience, “The architecture echos how we learn” Wong stated.

The WorldWide Telescope provides users with a seamless experience with navigating the night sky, enabling users to zoom deep into distant galaxies and star clusters that is unparalleled. But as Curtis Wong demonstrated, the WWT is a teaching tool as much as anything else. One of the ways that the WorldWide Telescope excels as a teaching tool to teach about astronomy is that it delivers an experience that almost feels like video, it is a very rich environment, with moving and shifting images and even supports narration to guide users along, yet at the same time the WWT gives users a control over the experience that a video does not.

One of the key ways that that WorldWide Telescope is able to tell stories in context is that no matter what celestial body the user is currently examining, through a single menu they can look up more information on that item from around the web. After Wong linked out from the WWT directly to the Wikipedia page of the galaxy he was studying Wong added, “With this king of information available, kids can actually do science”.

Another Microsoft Research project Wong demonstrated to the audience at NextMEDIA was Project Tuva, an online tool that displayed transcriptions of university lectures given by Richard Feynman in 1964, and that also annotates the lectures with relevant media and information from around the web.