Six feet of water. It doesn’t sound like much, in theory. Your feet might still touch the bottom of the pool. But in the hands of the Weather Channel, and its crazy new Immersive Mixed Reality graphics system, viewers are getting a glimpse at how terrifyingly destructive it really is. A wall of murky liquid surrounds the host, bobbing cars and–is that a kamado grill?–in its wake. Like a real-time rendered bar graph, it grows from three feet, to six, to nine.
Earlier this summer, I spoke with Weather Channel design lead Michael Potts about the company’s new rig, which was developed with help from The Future Group. It uses Unreal Engine to render lifelike effects of weather around the broadcaster, a technology that the Weather Channel dubs “Immersive Mixed Reality.” At the time, the Weather Channel was debuting the system by reporting on tornados–but as Hurricane Florence pummels the Carolinas, we’re now seeing how it’s being used during Hurricane Season.
And as sensational as the Weather Channel’s interactive graphics can be, the producers seem to be striking the right tone with them. Here, these simulated hurricane floods are neither fear-mongering or needless spectacle; they’re a visualization of the very real devastation that could come in their wake.