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Microsoft and PBS Create Global Web Resource to Enhance Understanding of AIDS Pandemic


May 30, 2006

Microsoft researcher helps “FRONTLINE” launch enhanced broadband television Web site linked to “The Age of AIDS” documentary.

REDMOND, Wash. — A quarter-century after the first diagnosed cases surfaced, HIV/AIDS continues to spread rapidly throughout the world. To help shed more light on the history of this pandemic and educate people about what can be done to stop it, Microsoft Corp. principal researcher Curtis Wong has teamed up with producers of the PBS television series “FRONTLINE” to develop an enhanced broadband television Web site for a new documentary titled “The Age of AIDS,” premiering tonight and Wednesday.

Wong, who manages the Next Media Research group within Microsoft Research, worked closely with WGBH Interactive and the producers of “FRONTLINE” to design the technology for the Web site. Beginning on June 2, the companion Web site at will allow visitors to view “The Age of AIDS” video on demand, in its entirety or chapter by chapter, along with related, interactive online content that is tightly integrated with the video footage.

“What’s unique about this approach is that it seamlessly combines a compelling television program with rich Web resources to significantly enhance people’s understanding of a complex topic like AIDS,” Wong said. “It highlights the tremendous potential of Internet television with rich interactivity to deliver in-depth content to a global audience.”

As people watch “The Age of AIDS” documentary online, contextual links appear beside the video to inform viewers about topics directly related to that portion of the program. Clicking on any link automatically pauses the video, allowing viewers to explore related resources at their leisure and then return to the documentary without missing a moment.

For example, during a segment chronicling the history of HIV/AIDS, viewers can explore an interactive atlas showing the HIV infection rates in South Africa along with those of neighboring countries. Clicking on an individual country in the atlas also will provide more-detailed information, such as the percentage or number of people receiving AIDS drugs as well as other facts about historical, political or social events related to AIDS in that country. Other links will take the viewer to a detailed explanation of the science of HIV/AIDS or an interactive timeline cross-referenced to the video and other resources in the site. The site also hosts an oral history archive of extended interviews with the top scientists, physicians, public-health officials and activists who have been fighting this battle for 25 years.

Wong’s group at Microsoft Research explores how advances in connectivity, data storage, computing devices, network bandwidth and other technologies influence traditional as well as emerging forms of media. “The HIV/AIDS epidemic has so many facets — from the science to the politics to the social ramifications to the human stories — that cry out to be examined in greater depth and dimension than a four-hour television program can deliver,” Wong said.

“It’s an honor to work with WGBH Interactive and the “FRONTLINE” producers to provide innovative ideas and technology as a tool for enhancing public understanding and hopefully shaping public policy on HIV/AIDS,” Wong added. “And this has been a great opportunity to support public television and build on Microsoft’s insights into the future of media.”

Filmed in 19 countries, “The Age of AIDS” features interviews with dozens of scientists, political figures, activists and HIV patients. The documentary is a co-production of WGBH/“FRONTLINE” and Paladin InVision Ltd. with Silverbridge Productions Ltd. and Channel 4. PBS stations will air the two-part “FRONTLINE” documentary from 9 to 11 p.m. EDT tonight and Wednesday (times may vary by region; check local TV listings).

“Curtis has brought crucial expertise to this production in terms of combining interactive Web technology tools and deep stores of online information with the rich storytelling power of television,” said David Fanning, creator and executive producer of “FRONTLINE.” “‘The Age of AIDS’ companion Web site will enable us to convey far more in-depth information about this pandemic to a much larger global audience than would otherwise be possible with this documentary alone.”

Wong works with a number of nonprofit organizations, including the PBS Kids Next Generation Media Advisory Board, which is responsible for planning digital media for children. Four years ago he collaborated with PBS station WGBH Boston to create an enhanced broadband television Web site with the PBS documentary “Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy.” The interactive, contextually relevant content he helped deliver through that site earned Wong and his WGBH cohorts a 2002 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Best Achievement in Online Learning. BAFTA hailed the “Commanding Heights” site as “a milestone in the development of broadband content.”

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research employs more than 700 people in five labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at

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