Being a Nerd: Exploring data with the WorldWide Telescope, Layerscape, and NUIverse

For those of you who have seen my posts in the past, you may already have some idea that I’m a nerd and I love technology. And just to confirm your first impressions, my nerd quotient rises when technology is used in new and interesting ways. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen several blogs talking about advancements in data representation and delivery which I found intriguing: raising my nerd quotient at an 8+.

For several years, Microsoft has made available a virtual universe touring experience called The WorldWide Telescope ( According to their web site: “The WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.” What I find intriguing about the technology is the ability to record predefined tours through the space. Cool. Great for education. But not remarkably exotic.

Just recently, however, I read about an augmentation to WorldWide Telescope, released by Microsoft Reasearch ( called Layerscape (, which adds the ability to upload and layer your own data into the virtual universe. Much cooler with shades of business intelligence mixed in. My personal favorite is the “Seismicity Samoa and Tohoku” tour from the seismic events surrounding the 2010 Samoa and Tohoku earthquakes. Although the pre-recorded video is good, the ability to freely move in four dimensions (time included) helps make the the concepts behind plate tectonics much more real.

This blog post was finally inspired by a video on the NUIverse ( – a combination of Microsoft Surface ( and a custom, high-powered GPU engine building upon existing technology and a massive star field database to deliver an amazing universe exploration experience.

I think is important to extrapolate from advancements like these is that unique and innovative ways of looking at data are being developed every day. What we see as cool gadget or an interesting teaching tool will someday be fundamental delivery tools for BI. Microsoft estimates that technologies like Kinect and Surface take upwards of 15 to 20 years to go from inception, to research & development, to incubation, to a finished product. And although they don’t appear overnight – it is fun to watch them mature. I love being a nerd.


SDeming Face  Steve

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