The Weather Channel Used VR to Simulate a Shockingly Realistic Tornado

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iStock

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:

[h/t Poynter]

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

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iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

Your Netflix Subscription Just Shot Up in Price

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iStock.com/amesy

For the past several years, Netflix has been rolling out a steady stream of expensive original content, from Dave Chappelle comedy specials (for which he was reportedly paid $20 million apiece) to $90 million feature film spectacles like 2018’s Bright.

It appears the bill now needs settling up. Variety reports that the service has announced a price hike for its 58.4 million subscribers.

Effective immediately, Netflix subscribers on the Standard plan with two HD streams will pay $12.99 monthly, up from $10.99; the Premium plan, which includes four HD streams and 4K options, is jumping from $13.99 to $15.99 per month; while the Basic plan, with one standard-definition stream, will increase by a dollar, from $7.99 to $8.99.

In a press release explaining the fee increase, Netflix stated that the price hike is partly a product of the company’s desire to “continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience.”

Naturally, whether that represents value depends on whether users are enjoying their programming. Financially, the company spends more on content than comparable services like HBO and Hulu—by some estimates, as much as $13 billion in 2018.

Subscribers have a new season of The Punisher, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary on the doomed Fyre music festival; and a new Ted Bundy documentary series, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, to look forward to in the coming weeks.

[h/t Variety]

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