Tom Powell speaking at Tech Exeter Conference

Tom Powell

Met Office

A useful real world application of virtual-reality

The Informatics Lab has been working alongside the Met Office College to deliver a virtual-reality prototype application to enrich the college’s courses.

The Met Office College delivers bespoke training courses and programmes to people from around the world for anything weather and climate related, including the Aeronautical Meteorological Observing Course. This course is delivered numerous times a year, predominantly to customers from UK civil and military airports and airfields, but also to the Met Office’s own trainee meteorologists.

There is a large practical element to the course. Trainees must be able to recognise different cloud types, amounts of sky coverage, cloud base height, weather types, intensities and associated visibilities.

When delivering this type of recognition training the College is at the mercy of the weather. Often during a course there is little variation in the sky which limits the learners exposure to different conditions. We are seeking to solve this challenge in the Lab using low-cost virtual-reality headsets (e.g. Google Cardboard.)

We are able to immerse students in various weather scenarios chosen at will from an online catalogue, all delivered on-site in the classroom. The project is still very much in its infancy but we are already convinced that by using VR we can give the learner a more complete and immersive experience.


Prior to joining the Informatics Lab Tom was primarily working in middleware with Java in the Met Office’s Data Services team. He has a real appetite to learn and as such has dabbled in various front and back-end technologies, something he has hugely expanded upon whilst working in the Lab.

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