Viewers typically don't tune into The Weather Channel for action-packed thrills, but a shockingly realistic simulation of a tornado that recently aired on live television delivered just that.
As spotted by Poynter, the live segment used immersive mixed reality (virtual reality blended with real backdrops) to demonstrate the damage that a powerful tornado can do. As meteorologist Jim Cantore stood on set explaining how to protect yourself when a tornado hits, a wooden beam launched across the room and smashed through a window. Then, a beat-up sedan crashed through the ceiling, and a wall of the studio was torn off like a Band-Aid. Or so it seemed.
The Weather Channel has been incorporating augmented reality into its forecasts for a couple years now, but its newest segment on tornadoes, at nearly eight minutes long, is perhaps its most elaborate one yet. It took several months to produce the simulation via Unreal Engine, which is also used by the video game industry. Cantore then wrote the script and rehearsed the dramatization for a few days before going live.
Michael Potts, vice president of design at The Weather Channel, told Poynter this technology represents the future of weather broadcasts.
"Turn on the weather channel in 2020, and 80 percent of the time we might have a set that takes you to a street corner in Cincinnati, or downtown Boston, or Biscayne Boulevard in Miami," he said. "You're not just looking at what the seven-day weather forecast is, but you're being immersed in it. You're feeling it."
Check it out for yourself in the video below: