Walk Through The Belly Of A Tornado In Virtual Reality

Release time:2016-02-19Views:7820

OnMay 20, 2013, a massive tornado slammed into Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and leaving 353 injured, and causing nearly $2 billion in damage.

The tornado was determined to be an EF5, the most destructivetype of tornado on the Enhanced Fujitaclassificationscale. Because tornadoes are so short lived (and also really destructive) it isdifficult for scientists to get a good look inside these disasters. But now,researchers at Virginia Tech are able to walk inside a virtual reality versionof the Moore tornado, seeing the disaster from all angles. The researchersbuilt the visualization using radar data taken during the storm.

While wearing an Oculus Rift headset, researchers can walk aroundinside a four-story tall theater on the Virginia Tech campus, transforming theroom into the Moore, Oklahoma landscape. For the user, it's like walking into agiant weather map, with various rain clouds virtually scattered about the spaceand an immense funnel that darts about the room. The experience, which New Scientist posted on YouTube is more akin to CNN holograms than Twister; there are no flying cows, and rainclouds appear as big blobs of different colors, just as they would on yourlocal weather forecast.

Eventually, researchers hope that they can model storms usingthis technology in something close to real time--looking inside a storm as itdevelops. That way they can better predict how bad the tornado might be beforeit touches down.

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