London, March 7 : Climate researchers have developed a weather map interface that lets the user physically feel weather features.
Developed by Haptics researcher Cagatay Basdogan of Ko§ University, Istanbul, Turkey, the new system involves a computer system that lets climate researchers "feel" wind speeds and other weather features on their maps using a joystick that simulates touching objects ccording to a report in New Scientist, climate data is normally displayed as layers of symbols on 2D or 3D maps of terrain. For example, arrows of different lengths represent wind direction and strength, and colors indicate changes in air pressure.
The maps become complex as other variables that interact to produce weather patterns like temperature, humidity and cloud formations must be included too.
"Visualising climate data is not easy," said Basdogan. "If you rely only on visualizations, users can get overwhelmed," he added.
As a result, Basdogan and colleagues developed a haptic system dubbed CEVIZ, for Climate Exploration and Visualization.
What the system does is that it converts climate data into forces that a person can feel using a haptic device in the form of a robotic arm with a joystick on the end.
"It adds another dimensionality to what's on the screen," said Basdogan.
The haptic controller can guide a person's hand along contours representing areas of high air pressure, or push and pull on their hand to represent shifting winds as the user moves their cursor over the map. Vortices of rising, swirling air are experienced as if the user's hand is attached to a spring pulling it upwards.
A trial of the system shows that it can help people understand how the climate works better than purely visual maps.
Tests involving 22 people compared CEVIZ to a more conventional, purely visual climate display system. Both systems displayed a 3D simulation of the eastern Mediterranean basin and its climate.
Results showed that people understood the presented data much better after using CEVIZ. They were able, for example, to pinpoint much more accurately the places where humid air would interact with wind and cooler temperatures to form clouds.
According to climate modeler Gary Strand at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, US, "As well as helping researchers explore their data, it could also be to help people explore weather reports."