The Weather Channel has been using augmented reality (AR) graphics to support coverage of weather such as tornados for some time, and now has expanded into using the technology during sports coverage.
Sports reporting has long been one of the places where technology is embraced, from the introduction of slow motion and instant replay to more modern score and statistical overlays, the Weather Channel is taking it one step further with the introduction of AR graphics. This began in 2015 when the Weather Channel explained the science behind tornadoes, with Vice President of Design Michael Potts explaining: “We were looking for new and interesting ways to engage the viewers beyond having a great presenter at a map telling the forecasts. How do we dive deeper into the stories of the weather?”
Potts had previously worked for Turner Sports and saw applying the technology to sports reporting as a natural fit: “Our audience is equally receptive. They’re sports fans,” he said, speaking to SportsTechie. “We’ve always done forecasts for events and major events, but now we’re able to dive deeper into the meanings and the reasons and attach the science behind it.”
A typical example of a segment involving the AR technology involves a reporter walking around a live 3D model of a sporting field and explaining how weather might affect the event. The AR is all applied live, using Ncam optical tracking alongside the on-screen graphics system to create realistic objects.
Presenters have, for the most part, got to grips with the technology fairly quickly. Potts says: “Most of our talent is just so excited…They get involved, there’s storytelling here that’s immersive for them.”
Audience reaction has been equally enthusiastic, with polls conducted by The Weather Channel showing that audience engagement and length of time spent watching increases for segments involving the AR technology. A video showing some of the technology in action is available to view below.
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Updated: Article updated to add attribution to SportsTechie from whom the quotes are sourced.