Chicago forecaster discovers his weather map is actually a touchscreen — ‘What is going on here?!’

A Chicago meteorologist was surprised to learn that an on-set monitor is actually a touchscreen when he accidentally triggered the feature in the middle of a newscast. 

 

Greg Dutra was filling in for WLS morning meteorologist Tracy Butler on the station’s Aug. 4, 2022 6 a.m. broadcast when he made a sweeping gesture with his hand that forecasters often do when emphasizing wind, fronts or other weather systems.

That movement apparently was so enthusiastic that it caused him to bump into the surface of the large video panel mounted in the weather center and frequently used in place of a full chroma key wall for presenting forecasts, especially on the morning broadcasts.

That triggered the touchscreen feature. 

“Ooo, I moved the map … I didn’t know I could do that,” Dutra exclaimed. 

“No way,” he said as the “discovery” caught the attention of anchors Terrell Brown and Val Warner, who was filling in for Tanja Babich

“Did you just discover that?” Warner can be heard saying off camera.

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“I gotta try it,” said Brown, who jumped out from behind the anchor desk to the weather center to try his hand at the feature, garnering more amazement from the team.

“Can I zoom?” Dutra questioned, performing the familiar pinch-and-spread motion that triggers that feature on many touchscreen devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Sure enough, that worked too, much to everyone’s amusement.

 

Dutra was in for yet another surprise when he reached out and touched the surface with an open palm scrubbing motion that triggered the map to shift perspective. 

“Oh my gosh, you can tilt it!? What is going on here?” he gushed. 

Dutra joined ABC 7 from Denver in 2019, so he’s had a few years to learn about the touchscreen, which was listed as a feature by the designer when the set was installed in 2015. The set, in fact, features at least two touchscreens — the one Dutra was using and one in a multipurpose standup area on the other side of the anchor desk frequently used for traffic and sports. 

The weather panel has been used as a touchscreen, including with its drawing capabilities in the past. 

In all fairness, at least some of that time was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many WLS weather forecasters were broadcasting from home.

It’s also possible that not all the touchscreen features are active for all graphics; for example, zooming and tilting is perhaps most effective with maps and the system may activate one of those graphics are active.

The fact that Dutra’s accidental trigger of the feature only affected the map portion of the screen, and not the header graphic, is indicative that the touchscreen feature runs, at least at times, separately from the hardware.

ABC 7 Chicago also recently quietly switched its weather graphics over to a new look in preparation for what NewscastStudio sources say is preparation for a complete graphics overhaul as ABC-owned stations slated for later in 2022.

This redesign could have activated or added touchscreen interactions that weren’t possible before.

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