The Weather Channel built a viral storm simulation — how did it get so good at AR?

Using data from IBM’s Weather Company, The Weather Channel is making some crazy visualizations.

September 17, 2018

The Weather Channel’s visualization of Hurricane Florence’s possible flooding went viral a few days ago, thanks to a frighteningly realistic augmented reality (AR) simulation.

As it turns out, the desperate sell-offs that nearly killed the embattled 36-year-old Weather Channel also transformed the company into one of the world’s most cutting-edge AR tech laboratories.

A tale of two Weather Channels

After broadcasting up a storm in the ’80s, The WC fell on hard times in the ’90s when viewers migrated to the internet. 

By 2008, the company had to sell to a private equity consortium. After years of reorganization — and a deluge of clickbait — the network formerly known as The Weather Channel split in half.

In 2015, IBM acquired (and all WC’s digital assets) for $2B, renaming it The Weather Company — leaving the TV Channel out in the rain (it finally sold for a bargain price of $300m this March).

IBM’s personal playground for big data

At the time of the purchase, skeptics ridiculed IBM for buying the wrong kind of cloud company. But IBM was really buying a meteorological data powerhouse with more than 3B reference points 

The Weather Company is now a subsidiary of IBM’s Cloud Computing Unit, where it feeds data to 5k+ clients across government, aviation, energy, and insurance.

So, if you were wondering how The Weather Channel graduated from bad green-screen drawings to Hollywood-quality special effects so quickly, now you know: it’s IBM’s alimony.

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