Television

Microsoft, PBS create global web resource to enhance AIDS understanding

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MUMBAI: 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.

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 2 June, the web site at http://www.pbs.org/frontline/aids 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. It highlights the tremendous potential of Internet television with rich interactivity to deliver in-depth content to a global audience," said Wong.

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.

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. And this has been a great opportunity to support public television and build on Microsoft's insights into the future of media," Wong added.

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.

"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. 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," said Frontline creator and executive producer David Fanning.

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