Graphics Make Flying Event A Spectator Sport

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When New Zealand's Gliding Grand Prix launches above the Southern Alps next month, spectators will have a whole new view of the action, thanks to state-of-the-art real-time 3D animated computer graphics created by Animation Research Ltd (ARL). The New Zealand company developed graphics for the America's Cup and also designed simulators to train air traffic controllers. "In most sports we can look and see who's winning and losing but in gliding, as in yachting, there's no sense of the field," said ARL managing director Ian Taylor. "But we can create that field, even when it covers thousands of square miles." The box for the glider competition has a radius of over 50 miles and a height of 20,000 feet, making it tough to follow the competition visually. The graphics are built from data transmitted by GPS units installed in the gliders. The Grand Prix software is based on ARL's America's Cup graphics, but this is the first time ARL has developed graphics that can move along three axes in space. The New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix takes place in Omarama, North Otago, Jan. 21-29, with the final three days open to the public. It features 11 of the top pilots from around the world. A giant outdoor screen will display the graphics along with live helicopter video and commentary.