SOS Explorer® (SOSx) is a flat screen version of the widely popular Science On
a Sphere® (SOS). The revolutionary software takes SOS datasets, usually only
seen on a 6-foot sphere in large museum spaces, and makes them more accessible.
Animated images such as atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean
temperature can be shown in SOSx, which explains sometimes complex
environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and
NOAA uses SOSx as an instrument to highlight and disseminate cutting edge
science to the world through visualizations that show information provided by
satellites, ground observations and computer models.
In the dual screen set-up, the interactive visualizations are displayed on the
touchscreen and also mirrored on the large display for others to view.
Colorbars, labels, and text boxes are shown on the large screen only, while the
search window and other user interfaces show up only on the touchscreen. The
result is an exhibit that can be controlled by one person and enjoyed by many.
The dual screen equipment list includes
everything required for this exhibit set-up.
In the single screen set-up, everything fits on just one screen and the user
can either use a keyboard and mouse or a touchscreen to control the software.
In a classroom, the single screen can be displayed on a large television or
projector for the whole class to see, making it the ideal teaching tool. The
equipment for the single screen set-up varies based on your desired use. The
single screen equipment list includes
everything required for the classroom set-up.
SOS Explorer® comes with the SOSx Tour Builder that allows for the addition of
new content and the creation of custom tours. Tours allow you to tell a story
with datasets and help users make tangible and understandable connections
between the animations and their lives. Tours are scripted presentations that
walk a user through the datasets using a storyline and a learning goal. These
can include text, guiding questions, pop-up web content, videos,
pictures/diagrams, and click-able place marks. The system comes with several
tours crafted by NOAA and with the SOSx Tour Builder, you can create as many
new tours as you like!
SOS Explorer® Mobile (SOSx Mobile) is a mobile app version of SOSx — now freely
available for download — that allows users to explore a
select group of SOS datasets and learn more, all from their mobile device! SOSx
Mobile offers more than 100 datasets from NOAA, NASA, and academic
institutions, including: climate models predicting the temperature of the Earth
through 2100 for different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios; National Marine
Sanctuaries’ 360 degree underwater photographs in the Florida Keys; and the
entire 2012 hurricane season, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria, from NOAA
Using their own personal mobile device, users have complete control over which
visualizations they want to explore. The global visualizations can be viewed on
a virtual globe or as a flat map at the press of a button. Visualizations are
live streamed and cached for quick, high resolution playback. Colorbars,
labels, and text boxes are displayed for explanation and can be moved, resized,
and hidden by the user for better viewing. The search window slides into view
when in use and then slips away for optimal interaction with the selected
There are some key differences between SOS Explorer® and SOSx Mobile. The table
below highlights the major differences and can help you decide what version is
right for you. For further clarification, email
SOS Explorer® was developed by the Informatics and Visualization (IV) section
of NOAA’s Global Systems Division, which is also the home of Science On a
Sphere® (SOS). (Learn more about SOS.) Wanting to build off of
the success of SOS and expand the reach of SOS into classrooms and homes as
well as museums who don’t have the physical space for a full Science On a
Sphere®, developers created a flat screen version of SOS called SOS Explorer®
Several factors came together at the right time to lead to the development of
SOSx. After field trips to see NOAA’s popular SOS, many teachers often asked
how they could bring the same experience of viewing global data into their
classrooms. Most of the teachers didn’t have a budget for installing SOS into
their schools and needed other options. A flat screen version that could be
displayed on computer monitors and projectors seemed like an obvious solution.
At the same time, IV developers were working on Terraviz™, a visualization
engine that utilizes gaming technology to generate high resolution displays. As
part of their work, they were using Terraviz to create a virtual globe that
scientists could use to display and analyze global weather models. As the
technology matured, it became clear that Terraviz could be used for both
scientists and teachers. Two different products emerged — the NOAA Earth
Information System (NEIS) was developed for scientific use and SOS Explorer® was
developed for educational and public use.