Behind the WorldWide Telescope Theater at SXSW

This WorldWide Telescope at South by Southwestpast weekend at SXSW, Microsoft and the WorldWide Telescope team worked with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the Space Telescope Science Institute to deliver a one of a kind exhibit around the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). 

The two main anchors of the exhibit was the physical model of the JWST and the WorldWide Telescope Theater.  Over the 3 days the WWT Theater hosted over 70 talks using WWT Tours, PowerPoint, and live Skype QnAs – all on a 20 million pixel wall sized display wall.  

Behind the scenes – this immersive experience was pulled together by Microsoft WP_20130308_005Research and our partners for the theater – Epson, NVIDA and Scalable Display Technologies.  The 8 Epson projectors worked flawlessly pumping out pixels for over 14 hours a day and this was in a tent without air conditioning and lots of humidity – especially during the first two days of rain.  The 8 projectors were driven by 2 NVIDIA Quadro K5000’s in a single PC.   The display wall needed the DirectX 11 support to show off the latest WWT Eclipse Alpha build that leverages DX11.  Delivering all those pixels to the display wall was one piece, but to make the images seamless and immersive the Scalable Display Manager (SDM) was used.  The (SDM) software with it’s EasyBlend technology, made it a snap to wrap and blend the pixels coming from the individual projectors into a really seamless experience. 

This whole setup allowed the team to utilize the wall as a very, very large WP_20130310_023Windows desktop and take advantage of all the Windows applications for the presentations – including

  • PowerPoint 2013, which takes advantage of DirectX and hardware acceleration and was able to handle the unique aspect ratio so the whole display was used for content
  • Skype – probably the largest Skype image for Skype session on a desktop you’ve ever seen
  • OneNote 2013 – used for displaying notes and twitter names for a NASA Social at SXSWWP_20130310_001
  • SkyDrive – was used to deliver PowerPoint presentations and WorldWide Telescope Tours to machine driving the display wall and kept them in sync – so edits were always captured
  • WorldWide Telescope – used to deliver tours exclusive created for the JWST SXSW exhibit. 

While most of you might not need to create a wall sized display like this one – it shows how desktop technologies created for Windows scales to create immersive experiences.  Let me know if you decide to create one….