The augmented reality (AR) sandbox or interactive sandbox, allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc.
The project offers an irresistible combination: the timeless tactile joy of sand in hand plus a dollop of whiz-bang tech to top it off. A Kinect camera mounted above the sandbox tracks the physical activity below. As visitors young and old go about their terraforming, a projector throws a dynamic topographic map on top of it all, updating contour lines and elevation colors in real time. Then, the fun part: a virtual rainstorm, also supplied by the projector, sends a torrent of blue water cascading down the peaks, showing runoff and watershed on the landscape created moments before.
For more information about the ARS, including instructions on how to build your own, please see the UC Davis ARS Website