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15 Jul, 2009

Project Tuva

Project Tuva is an interactive video application developed for Microsoft Research. It wraps up many of our team’s passions in one project: history, interactive video, education, science, and rich internet applications. We are thrilled to be part of the team that brought this exciting video portal to life.

Project Tuva is an interactive video experience that makes learning about science relevant and exciting through annotations authored by researchers and subject-matter experts. Project Tuva launched with Richard Feynman’s Messenger Series lectures, a cornerstone set of seven talks at Cornell University in 1964. These videos are enhanced with a number of different layers of contextual information: fully-searchable transcripts and captions, time-synchronized contextual “extras” that link to related web resources, the ability to take notes while watching, integration with Microsoft Research’s own amazing World Wide Telescope project, and more.

Bill Gates, a longtime admirer of Feynman’s ability to make science approachable and fun, secured the rights to footage of Feynman’s Messenger lectures. Microsoft Research made this lecture series even more relevant and evocative by adding interactive visualizations, bibliographic references, web links, commentaries by subject matter experts, and even the ability to take notes while watching.

Time-synchronized links, images, captions, and visualizations aid in context and comprehension.

Stimulant then provided refinements to Project Tuva’s initial interaction design, created a minimal and modern visual design, established systems for content management and editing, and developed the Silverlight online user experience. We aimed to create a flexible and reductionist visual design language that would let content be king and the video viewing experience take center stage. The app is built to scale over time, as the Feynman videos are just the tip of the iceberg.

Project Tuva is notable on several technology fronts as well. Written in Silverlight, it uses Smooth Streaming to dynamically switch between different bit rates of video without interrupting playback. This allows the video to play in a way that’s more immediate than the usual buffer-then-watch online video experience. It uses a sophisticated and fully liquid layout system to adapt to different screen sizes and viewing aspect ratios. All modifications the user makes to the interface’s layout are remembered between sessions. The entire application is, like most of our work, wholly data-driven, leaving many possibilities for future content needs and enhancements.

A rich, multi-track timeline keeps track of content, extras, and even user-generated notes.

One of the best aspects of this project was, in fact, our clients. Microsoft Research is full of extremely passionate, brilliant, and funny people. They brought amazing ideas to the table and really made us deliver only our best work, which is just the kind of challenge we relish. Stimulant extends kudos to their entire team for giving us the opportunity to help bring Project Tuva to life. Project Tuva debuted at the 2009 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit.

Experience Microsoft Research Project Tuva online for yourself.

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