Oct 28

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

Visualizing GeoData in Second Life


Second Life has been all over the news these past two weeks. Now Aimee Weber on Second Life Insider is reporting on the work her studio did with National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration to create a 3D weather visualization in Second Life. You can see it in SL at the Science Center.

In her own words:

The system works by way of dozens of scripted reporting stations dotted all over a map of the United States. These stations retrieve METAR data from the NOAA every eight minutes which they then decode and render into models of the appropriate weather phenomenon for the area. All sorts of cloud cover and precipitation models are available as well as special weather conditions such as thunderstorms and tornadoes. Temperature is represented by warmer and cooler shades of color. This 3D composite is great for giving visitors a visceral feel for the weather around them.

Being able to script models like this adds a lot of power to geodata. I can easily imagine someone creating the ability to view KML and GML in Second Life. I wonder if it would it would start to become the (other) poor man's 3D geoviewer.

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Comments: 4

  Tim O'Reilly [10.29.06 09:16 AM]

In email, Cory Ondrejka of Second Life had some additional interesting comments:

This approach would work with a lot of different data visualizations, but the more important -- and transformative -- bit is that 60 people form all over the world could be discussing the data. Whether you're talking about tracking IEDs, gathering data on infectious diseases, voting results, sales results, team opinions, this display approach could let an international group brainstorm the implications of the data.

Moreover, it need not only be a display! While this display is pulling data form the web, it could allow participants to add data as well, perhaps reflecting the data into Google Earth or some web-based system so that the net result could be broadcast 1-to-many from the web.

Anyway, it's a great example, I think, of a US government agency leveraging SL to experiment with new tech in a really cost effective way.

  Taran [10.29.06 09:59 AM]

The inherent problem with this - and the really cool part - is that each molecular aspect of the simulation is based on our concept of what it is. For example, our understanding of hurricanes so far would allow us to create simulations of the hurricane itself, which is already done. Yet with more eyes on it (like open source, but not open source) various differences can be spotted and flagged more easily.

Oddly enough, I wrote about SL Ecosystems today ( ), which is probably a varied level of abstraction and yet is very similar in concept.

  Taran [10.29.06 10:00 AM]

Also... an inworld charting mechanism for 'reading' data would be useful.

  Matthew [10.30.06 08:13 PM]

While I don't think Edward Tufte would approve of the information density (or rather, the lack thereof), I do think it's exciting to see this kind of effort and interest (especially since I'm working on a little weather website of my own...).

Taran, what do you mean by "an inworld charting mechanism for 'reading' data would be useful"--is this an SL reference? I've never 'played'.

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