Embracing Real Life in Virtual Earth

REDMOND, Wash., April 5, 2007 – Imagine being able to visit any location in the world from the comfort of your computer in vivid detail – not just from geography and topography, aspects already currently available in mapping programs, but to monitor the actual current environmental conditions at a point of interest. This is just […]

REDMOND, Wash., April 5, 2007 – Imagine being able to visit any location in the world from the comfort of your computer in vivid detail – not just from geography and topography, aspects already currently available in mapping programs, but to monitor the actual current environmental conditions at a point of interest. This is just one of the scenarios being explored in academic research enabled by Microsoft's SensorMap and Virtual Earth Request for Proposal (RFP) programs. Such technology also has the potential, for example, to allow climatologists and other scientists to examine data over the long-term to track pollution and climate changes.

A screenshot of the SensorMap prototype, which enables a user to query sensors on a map by specifying a geographic region and filter sensors by interests such as temperature, video, traffic and parking.
A screenshot of the SensorMap prototype, which enables a user to query sensors on a map by specifying a geographic region and filter sensors by interests such as temperature, video, traffic and parking.
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Microsoft today announced 21 winners of the Virtual Earth and SensorMap RFP programs, with unrestricted funding totaling US$1.1 million. The scenarios described above are examples of the projects that the winning academic researchers are already working on. The awards are made for one year, to bolster existing academic research programs or seed entirely new ones.

"Being able to map real-time data happening in the physical world onto a computer will have tremendous societal impact – observing weather patterns, calculating soil erosion, sensing pollution, the applications seem endless," says Stewart Tansley, a program manager in the External Research & Programs group in Microsoft Research. "The ability to collect massive amounts of real-time data and apply it to the world we live in by visualizing it on a 'live' map is very exciting. Any one of the RFP projects has the potential to change the way people live, commute to work or build a structure, as well as empower scientists in their increasingly important environmental research."

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