ChronoZoom: A Timeline and Visualization Tool for Big History from Microsoft Research

History means aggregate of past events. Today, there are number of electronic resources and online collections available that help us explore the past. There is however no timeline feature that is capable of examining past from multiple disciplines such as Biology, Geology, Astronomy, Environmental studies, Climatology, Economics, etc) and display time relationships between them.

ChronoZoom from Microsoft Research is a timeline tool that has it. It unifies all the knowledge from past: From the Big Bang, to the time of the dinosaurs, to the present. The tool allows you to browse through history to find topic of interest in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other media. Information is organized by date, not topic.

Embark on a voyage through time, infinitely scalable from the Big Bang to today, exploring this master timeline of the cosmos, Earth, life, and human experience. By unifying a wide variety of data and historical perspectives, ChronoZoom provides a framework for examining historical events, trends, and themes, enabling researchers, educators, and students to synthesize knowledge from different studies of history, specialized timelines, and media resources, courtesy of the cloud.

Microsoft Research team says:

To display the scales of history from a single day to the age of the Universe requires the ability to zoom smoothly by a factor of ~1013, and doing this with raster graphics was a remarkable achievement of the team at Live Labs. The immense zoom range also allows us to embed virtually limitless amounts of text and graphical information.

The open-source tool connects a wealth of information from five major regimes that merges all historical knowledge collectively known as Big History. The regimes of Big History are:

  • Cosmos
  • Earth
  • Life
  • Human Pre-History
  • Human History.

The original creators of the project are Roland Saekow and Professor Walter Alvarez and the tool is further developed at the University of California, Berkeley in collaboration with Microsoft Research and Moscow State University.

How ChronoZoom project started

A prototype of the project was presented by Roland and Walter before the people of research division at Microsoft Live Labs in 2010. They after getting interested agreed to help the duo develop a zoomable timeline using Live Labs’ proprietary Deep Zoom (Seadragon) software, which is designed to zoom in on portions of images.

The aim of ChronoZoom is to revolutionize the teaching of history by making the study more interactive with a visual experience. And it does to some extent! Currently, the project is in its beta release and content is sparse but in future you can expect it to contain millions of content items. The next phase of the project is to invite everyone to add their own content.

You definitely have to check it out!

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The author Hemant Saxena is a post-graduate in technology and has an immense interest in following Microsoft and other technology developments around the world. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player.