Augmented Reality Sandbox

An augmented reality (AR) sandbox uses a computer, projector and Microsoft Kinect to augment a standard sandpit with real-time water simulation and height topography. It was first developed by the University of California as an educational tool to raise awareness of lake ecosystems and watersheds. The plans and software have been released as open source so you can build your own.

The real magic in this experience comes from the Microsoft Kinect camera (from that old Xbox 360 which never gets used), with its depth sensing technology the Kinect is capable of calculating the distance to a point through infrared light. This information is passed onto the AR sandbox software which calculates the sands height and simulates water flow. Finally the projector displays this information right onto the sand itself.

This experience is an excellent tool for showing how changes to land formations can effect lakes and waterways. It uses the same visualisations as standard topographical maps with colours, contour lines, watersheds, catchment lines and levees.

To build one it requires a sandpit container, camera mount, projector mount and computer storage area which combined makes it difficult to move. If the setup is built onto coaster wheels it could be moved within a building but transportation elsewhere would be difficult, making this categorised as a fixed experience.

The AR sandbox build plans suggests a 1 metre square sandpit and 1 metre high camera mount. Participants can sit or stand depending on the height of the sandbox

Can be used by multiple people at once, however depending on computer processing power there may be a small delay in updating the graphics. If too many people (5+) are using the sandpit at once it may impede the view of the Kinect camera and projector.

A technical twist on a classic sandpit, this experience would appeal to all ages.

As basically an interactive sandpit using this experience is relatively simple so no staffing is required.

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