The Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox was created by the joint forces of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) of the University of California and the UC-Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), all as part of the National Science Foundation-supported LakeViz3D program. The program seeks to
raise public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater lake ecosystems, habitats, and earth science processes using 3-D visualizations of lake and watershed processes.
The sandbox itself is just that – a sandbox. Users get to shape real sand, which is augmented in real time by an elevation colour map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water (or lava) being projected onto the sand. This is a dynamic, fun way to both learn about lakes and about geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map and figure out the meaning of contour lines. Accordingly, the designers of the AR Sandbox aim to make the final product “self-contained to the point where it can be used as a hands-on exhibit in science museums with little supervision,” enabling them to maximize the design’s value for education for all ages.
Want to find out more? The NSF has a picture gallery featuring 19 diagrams and pictures of the AR Sandbox, and you can also check out the LakeViz3D official website or UC Davis’ project page.