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Getting Started With Layerscape

'I have to give an Astronomy lecture in one hour... Help!!!'

No problem, you've come to the right place whether your audience is to be professional Astronomers or 6-year-olds! Install Worldwide Telescope, start it up, and for the next hour play with it using the following suggestions as a guide. Then jump up on that podium and say "I would like to show you a view of our corner of the universe!" and the rest will follow.

  • Go to Solar System mode using the drop-down menu at the lower left, "Look At"
  • Use the scroll wheel and Left-Click + Drag to explore the solar system; and you can back out to view stars, our galaxy, and way back to see many galaxies.
  • Click at top center "View" and in the 3D Solar System box:  Turn on and off various features (Orbits, Asteroids, Minor Orbits, etcetera).
  • To animate in time, again on the View control bar, this time in the Observing Time box: Click on the green fast-forward >> button until the planets begin moving. Click on the green play > button to slow things down by a factor of 10; pause will pause.
  • Return to the lower left "Look At" drop-down and select Sky. Zoom, pan, and explore.
  • At the top left click on the "Guided Tours" button to bring up a list of Tour categories. You can select Astronomy Tours from these several category folders (Learning WWT, Galaxies, Nebulas and so on).
  • One more time on the "Look At" menu: Choose Planets, and in the adjacent drop-down "Imagery" choose "Moon". You can now go fly around a topographically accurate version of the moon. Here there is a key change in how you control your view: To tilt the camera near the surface you must hold down the middle mouse button (or scroll wheel) while you drag the mouse. This takes some practice but works well once you have the hang of it.   

'I have to give an Earth science lecture in one hour... Help!!!'

As above: No problem! You've come to the right place whether your audience is to be professional Geophysicists or 6-year-olds! Install Worldwide Telescope, start it up, and for the next hour play with it using the following suggestions as a guide. Then jump up on that podium and say "I would like to show you a view of our beautiful little planet!" and the rest will follow.

The Basics

This website layerscape.org does two jobs. First it is the online learn/explore/collaborate support for data visualization tools we (Microsoft Research) provide for geoscience research and education. Second, it is a resource guide for scientists. These resources are Tools for managing and understanding data. This page is for the first part: It gets you started on data visualization.

Data Visualization at Layerscape

Click this link to dive in to content-viewing tools

At Layerscape we use a PC-based application called Worldwide Telescope (abbreviated WWT) to view data. This may be a little surprising: You can install WWT on your PC and use it, together with support machinery, and this is all at no cost. The operative unit of storytelling is a file called a Tour which contains both data and cinematography (including in some cases voice narration and music). There are many Tours already built and these are provided by this web site.  The Tours that you will find listed under Featured Content can show you what is possible and help you get started. Each Tour has its own web page (for example here) and many Tour pages include video of what the Tour looks like. To get to the full experience you will need to install Worldwide Telescope on your PC. Get going on this by clicking the orange button at the top of the page.  On each Tour page you can then click the blue View Tour button to download and play Tours.  While it is running you can pause the Tour and go explore the data yourself.

Once you get the idea and begin creating your own visualizations: The Layerscape website serves as a collaboration / sharing community. You can publish your data or visualizations here -- all types of files accepted -- and you can share either publicly or privately.  Each file or link that you publish receives its own dedicated web page making it easy to share  by means of a link, like this.

I am a RESEARCHER: What does Layerscape do??

Our main idea is to enable you to go beyond cool to useful visualizations of your complex datasets. This includes up to say 500,000 data points. Your data may have time dependency or time series components, and these you can play back at any speed. Once your data is inside WorldWide Telescope you have two big ideas to work with. First you can let your data render with or without time playback while you maneuver your perspective around it; that is, data and viewing perspective are independent of one another.  Second you can create a pre-set sequence of views and transitions that you can save, publish and share to communicate a story built around your data.

I am an EDUCATOR: What does Layerscape do??

Layerscape does interactivity. In that Researcher story above: The part at the end about telling stories bears on education as well. Students can watch a pre-built story (a Tour) as it plays; but the data is included in that Tour as well, so they can also go "off script": Pause and explore on their own.  The narrative authoring tools are very rich: You can add text narrative, voice narrative, graphics, map overlays, images, and even a background sound track. Find out more by downloading and playing Tours from this website!

How hard is it???

Know the basics of Power Point and Excel? You’re all set; you just need to learn a few details; and that is why we have created a Layerscape Workshop Tutorial. Follow along (it is a Power Point presentation) and learn as you go, and if you create something new: Publish it here and tell us about it.

More resources

From Microsoft Research

Blogs

Technical

Content for Worldwide Telescope at the Layerscape Website

You are already here at http://layerscape.org. This website has lots of Tours available in both WWT and video format; and most of these are concerned with earth science. You can watch, download and explore publicly available content; but you can also participate as a contributor and a community member if you sign in using your Windows Live ID. Here is how the participation structure works for you:

How Community Permission Levels Work

There are two "visitor" types and then four additional permission levels within Layerscape communities. These are, in ascending order of authority:

  • Visitor – not logged in (i.e. someone who hasn’t been given explicit access)
    • may access and download existing public content
    • may not submit content for upload to the community
    • may not rate or comment on content
  • Visitor – logged in (i.e. someone who hasn’t been given explicit access)
    • may access and download existing public content
    • may not submit content for upload to the community
    • may rate or comment on content
  • Reader:
    • may access and download existing public and private (this is the distinction between regular visitors and people that have been explicitly marked as a Reader) content
    • may not submit content for upload to the community
  • Contributor:
    • may access and download existing content
    • may submit content for upload to the community
    • may edit and delete own content in the community
    • may not edit existing content uploaded by others within the community
  • Moderator:
    • may access and download existing content
    • may submit content for upload to the community or edit existing content
    • may edit existing content uploaded by others within the community
    • may issue invitations to other users and respond to invitation requests except that of owners
    • may not edit the privileges of other members in the community except that of owners
    • may not edit the properties of/delete the root community to which he/she is the moderator of
  • Owner:
    • may access and download existing content
    • may submit content for upload to the community
    • may submit content for upload to the community or edit existing content
    • may edit the privileges of other members in the community or add/remove users completely
    • may issue invitations to other users and respond to invitation requests

The community owner determines the privilege levels of any user within the community. Moderators can also assign permissions up to a moderator level. They cannot change the permissions of existing Owners or add new Owners.