What’s the difference between a video game and a data visualization? Quite a bit less than you’d think.
In essence, video games are just visualizations – of worlds, of characters, of battles – that are interactive and put to a story. Since we work with NOAA, where literally hundreds of thousands of gigabytes of information are produced daily, we decided to undertake an experiment: to see if we could use a traditional game engine like Unity3D for serious data visualizations.
The result is TerraViz.
TerraViz is designed to be a multi-platform data visualization tool, running on desktops, web browsers, and mobile devices. It’s designed to be able to take arbitrary data in common formats like KML and display that data in a true 3D environment. It’s designed to be fast and powerful – able to display millions of points of data without breaking a sweat.
TerraViz is still early in development, but so far it has been very promising. We hope to continue development and expansion of the tool, and eventually offer it to NOAA, other agencies, and academia.
In this image: A screen capture of Terraviz showing two data sets: a weather model output run overlaid on the Earth, and the location of every space object that NORAD tracks.