In one of the most engaging weather reports you’re likely to see in a while, the Weather Channel brought the reality of a tornado much, much closer to home for viewers last week.
As part of a report about tornado categorisation, meteorologist Jim Cantore explained the different stages of the phenomenon in a broadcast with a twist.
Throughout the show, Cantore explains the different stages of tornadoes – and safety tips for each stage – as debris, powerlines and even a car appear to crash into the studio.
The demonstration used mixed reality (MR), which is similar to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in that it creates virtual objects and then overlays them into the real world, but goes a step further and allows users to interact with them.
Through MR the channel creates an incredibly realistic simulation of a tornado hitting the studio, with yellow ‘pop-ups’ appearing with facts and safety advice.
For example, after a powerline crashes into the frame, Cantore tells viewers to stay at least 40 feet away from any live wires, saying that where he was standing would be too close to the pole if it was real.
The ‘Tornado Hits The Weather Channel’ video ends with the anchor walking through the destruction after the studio is totally ripped apart.
With sirens wailing, flickering video connection and sparks appearing to emerge from live wires, the entire experience – apart from Cantore himself – was meticulously created by the channel in partnership with The Future Group and powered by Frontier and Unreal Engine.
The Weather Channel reckons the broadcast will “ignite a revolution of weather presentation” as part of a new era of real-time immersive storytelling.
While some reviews have said the graphics looked fake, the broadcast appears to have been generally well received.
Comments under the video on YouTube included ‘Wow this is great! I will be watching TWC more often now. Give a raise to who ever [sic] pushed this’, ‘I like this format. It’s good and practical information presented in an interesting way’, and ‘The Weather Channel is broadcasting from 2028’.
The channel has said it will be going one step further with plans to use the tech in 80 per cent of its programming by 2020.
Watch the video to discover the power of tornadoes – and mixed reality – for yourself.