Telescope is what makes Scoble cry

Microsoft is said to have made significant strides with its desktop telescope application, allowing users to really feel as if they are cruising through the heavens. Is it really enough to produce tears?

Tech Culture

Is flying through outer space from the comfort of your living room enough to make you cry?

It is for former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble. A couple weeks back he said on his blog that a new Microsoft technology made him cry. He didn't give many details, citing a confidentiality agreement, but he provided enough there for folks to connect the dots.

My new boss, Dan Farber, correctly predicted that it was an updated version of the WorldWide Telescope program, a fact later confirmed by TechCrunch.

Microsoft researcher Curtis Wong showed an early version of the telescope software at last year's TechFest, Microsoft's internal science fair. Sources tell me that Microsoft's desktop software is far more immersive than what was shown at last year's TechFest or than the sky feature in Google Earth. In particular, the software will let you get extremely close to celestial objects, enough so that the software might be useful not just to armchair astronauts, but also to serious researchers.

The technology features tens of millions of digital images from sources like the Hubble telescope as well as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a project championed by missing Microsoft researcher Jim Gray.

Attendees of the posh TED conference will get to see the new Microsoft software next week, while the company also plans to show it at TechFest, the internal science fair that takes place the following week.

I'll be traveling to Redmond for the event, but I'm going to take a risk and leave my hankies at home.

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