Conditions at Omaha

The Weather Channel in VR

Click here to experience “Conditions at Omaha”. Available on YouTube for Cardboard (Android/iOS) and Daydream View (YouTube VR). Connect to WiFi signal for best results. Headphones encouraged. Recommended posture for experience is sitting on the floor. Preferably a carpet.

What is this?

“Conditions at Omaha” is a three-minute long VR experience that surrounds you with four local forecasts from Omaha, Nebraska that were televised in the 90’s on The Weather Channel. While you’re in the middle of this Omaha multi-weather-verse, you’re also bathed in the smooth jazz stylings of the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era and Weather Channel favorite, Kenny G.

Why did you do this?

I’ve been biting at the bit to create a place of calm and serenity similar to that of watching The Weather Channel in the 90's while sitting a foot away from the television screen. I also thought that something like this would take an hour to make.

Did it?

No. It took four.

What were some of the challenges?

For one, the background color. I tried making it “dynamic” — aka color-mattes-with-lots-of-cross fades —that emulated the sky from sunset to sundown, but add to that four screens of varying Omaha weather forecasts along with Kenny G’s Midnight Motion…it was too much. It started going somewhere dark.

I was also very sensitive to the fact that most visitors might only be able to stand something like this for approximately three minutes before I’d start to lose them. Luckily, The Weather Channel in the 90’s was host to some solid advertising, so I was able to band-aide the experience without too much trouble.

Why Omaha?

This may seem shocking — or not shocking depending on how much you care about The Weather Channel — but when I did some light research, I realized that there were a lot of great captures of televised local Weather Channel forecasts on YouTube. In particular, there seemed to be an emphasis on the local weather forecast in Omaha, Nebraska. I’m not entirely sure why, but I decided fairly quickly that this project would be an homage to Omaha weather. An “Omahomage” as it were.

Did Google ask you to make this?

No.

Did The Weather Channel ask you to make this?

No.

Do you feel this will create empathy?

No.

Are there not-so-subtle easter eggs that may or may not be found by looking up or down in the experience?

Yes!

What’s next for “Conditions at Omaha”?

I could sense a WebVR version of this as being possible in the future. “Conditions at Omaha” could be an experience that pulls in real-time weather and doppler radar data so that you could check the daily forecast for Omaha in a headset that same day. Perhaps instead of just one location, you can pull multiple local forecasts from places you’ve traveled to, will be traveling to, or are curious about. Take that real-time data, add a bit of Kenny G to the mix and suddenly you’ve got Weather You Can Always Turn To™ — but actually turn to!

I suppose then it would become Weather You Can Always Turn Inside™.

Machine learning could also play a role. Imagine training a neural net on all the music ever used on the Weather Channel so it could generate a unique, system-generated Weather Channel track on the fly.

Those two above thoughts are versions down the road, but I can see creating newer, better version with tools we have now. For me, this is only the beginning. What’s the potential fully-crafted world of The Weather Channel? What is its soul? What are its dreams?

What have you learned from making this?

The medium of televised weather forecasting has a great deal of depth and nuance. More than we give it credit for. Bringing weather forecasting into VR may help us explore and better understand this depth while also unlocking some of the latent potential of VR as a medium.

I also learned that you need to capitalize the “T” in “The” Weather Channel.

Do you think Kenny G would like this?

I’m not sure — but I hope so.

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