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Watch: This is just a sandbox, till augmented reality technology brings it to stunning life

It’s real to the eyes, but you cannot touch it.


As children, our geography and topography classes largely consisted of two-dimensional maps drawn on flat sheets of paper, with contour lines drawn all over them that didn’t mean much. However, life, and specifically geography, is a lot more fun for children (as well as adults) these days, with augmented reality sandboxes as depicted in the videos above and below.

The sandboxes are full of white sand and use augmented reality to create topography models in real life. The hands-on exhibit uses 3D visualisations created by researchers at University of California, Davis, which are projected on One to the sandbox using a Kinect camera and a projector. This creates real-time, colourful topographic maps with contour lines, simulated water and elevation colour maps, that aren’t just educational but also incredibly satisfying to watch as you can see below.

One of the coolest things about the AR sandbox? The ability to make it rain in real time on the models.


The system can teach geographical, geological and hydrological concepts like reading topography maps, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchments areas, levees and more. Or, like in the video below, virtually simulate situations like dam failure and perhaps even the impact of global warming.


There are already several augmented reality sandboxes around the world according to UC Davis’ website, including two in India, at the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad and Ahmedabad’s Physical Research Laboratory. The website also includes comprehensive directions on how to build your own AR sandbox, that you can find here, or watch this video tutorial.

In the meantime, you can watch these children playing:

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