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WorldWide Telescope: Exploring globally, learning locally

February 10, 2010 | By Microsoft blog editor

Thanks to a productive collaboration among members of the global research community, the WorldWide Telescope is in the process of becoming more worldwide in its reach and impact. By adding support for new languages, a process that is well underway, the WorldWide Telescope is becoming a more useful resource for more people in more places.


In nearly all aspects, the WorldWide Telescope is the result of collaboration among Microsoft External Research and a number of academic and governmental agencies. The WorldWide Telescope transforms the process of peering into the planets into one that’s similar to using a technologically enhanced encyclopedia. Put more simply, the WorldWide Telescope is Internet-izing astronomy.  It does this by providing the ability to seamlessly pan and zoom across the sky, blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources, which are accessed over the Internet and packaged into a media-rich, immersive experience.  Finding relevant information with the WorldWide Telescope is easy: users just right click on the object they’re interested in – Neptune, for example – to open a window that includes links to resources, such as published articles or Web sites, specific to Neptune.


To enhance the discovery that can result from such a collaborative effort, Microsoft External Research has made the WorldWide Telescope available, free of charge, to the astronomy and educational communities. The goal is that it will continue to expand the ways it inspires and empowers people around the world to use their exploration to deepen the global knowledge of the universe.


And to further that goal, and in recognition of the technology’s truly universal appeal, support for new languages is being added.


Localization of the WorldWide Telescope is occurring in two phases. The first, which commenced in November 2008, is the translation of the user interface, which is then professionally validated by local astronomers, all of whom have volunteered their time and expertise in support of the effort. Today, localized user interfaces are available in simplified Chinese, German and a Latin American version of Spanish. Localizations in Hindi, Japanese, Russian and Turkish are nearly complete and should be available this month.


The second and more complex phase of localizing the WorldWide Telescope will cover the translation of its vast volume of topically relevant resources available to those who use the technology. In addition to being more complex, this phase will also take more time to complete. I’m often asked when I expect the translation of resources to be complete, and my answer is fairly simple: it depends upon how old the country is for which the translation is being performed. That’s because the more years a country has existed, the longer its astronomers and other explorers have had to name what they see in the sky. And the more that’s been named, the more data we have to translate.


The evolution of the WorldWide Telescope, like the universe to which it offers us access, is ongoing. To make sure your voice is included in the process, please use this blog to share your insight and suggestions.


For more information on the WorldWide Telescope, you may read an essay by Alyssa A. Goodman and Curtis G. Wong from the The Fourth Paradigm.

Yan Xu, senior research program manager, Microsoft External Research