Saturday, December 23, 2017

Watch Santa’s Annual Journey in Unprecedented Detail Thanks to GPUs

He’s 260 pounds. He’s jolly. He and his reindeer travel at hypersonic speeds. We may not understand Santa Claus and his yearly Christmas eve journey. But, thanks to NORAD — which monitors the skies above North America for flying phenomenon of all kinds — we can track this annual anomaly. Headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, NORAD — the North American Aerospace Defense Command — tracks Santa using Cesium.

The open-source WebGL globe and map engine maintained by Analytical Graphics is widely used for visualizing fast-changing data. The Exton, Pa., firm has worked with NORAD since 2012 on the effort. When paired with the latest internet browsers, WebGL can take advantage of powerful NVIDIA GPUs to render images based on NORAD’s real-time data in stunning detail. New this year: a particle system that lets viewers see snow and sparkles trail behind a 3D animated model of Santa as flies across the globe, reports Gabby Getz, a software developer with Analytical Graphics.