Augmented Reality Sandboxes Around the World

The Augmented Reality Sandbox, a hands-on exhibit funded by the National Science Foundation developed by the UC Davis KeckCaves, UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the Lawrence Hall of Science, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, and Audience Viewpoints Consulting opened in California at the Lawrence Hall of Science in 2014. The interactive exhibit teaches concepts relating to topography, watersheds, ecosystems, and much more using kinetic sand and innovative software technology. This exciting innovation has inspired people all over the world and continues to grow as its features are further developed.

Since its launch, the AR Sandbox has not only attracted visitors to the founding partners of the LakeViz3D project at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, and the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, but it is also beginning to gain widespread attention by other educational institutions. This video shows the AR Sandbox being used at State University of New York at Geneseo, where the sandbox was developed by implementing the model designed by the team at UC Davis. The Sandbox has received a lot of positive feedback from those who have used or built upon it, and its use has been documented in various forms to share with and inspire others to become involved in their own sandbox adventures.

The AR Sandbox has also influenced researchers from the Geographic Information Network of Alaska at the University of Alaska, where developers have used the original open source software developed by Oliver Kreylos to create a version of their own to demonstrate changes in the environment using the topographical visualizations. Greg Wirth, a pioneer on the Geographic Information team, has since developed four more sandboxes and has helped build six others.

Other institutions including MIT and the University of Wyoming have developed their own versions of the sandbox to share with the public. At the Geological Museum at the University of Wyoming, the sandbox is not only being used as an interactive display to the public, but it also serves as a tool for some of the geology classes at the university to explain topographical maps and watersheds. Laura Vietti, Museum and Collections Manager at the university, says “Future plans are to create an ARS module where the water function acts as groundwater and will have a water-table baseline that can be ‘drilled into’ by lowering elevation of sand”.

Students creating landforms using the University of Wyoming's Geological Museum's sandbox (photo courtesy of Laura Vietti)
Students creating landforms using the University of Wyoming’s Geological Museum’s sandbox (photo courtesy of Laura Vietti)

At East Carolina University, Dr. Terri Woods has her students form their own simple landforms with the sandbox, teaching them the basics so they can later construct models such as coasts with spits and baymouth bars. Terri has also done outreach with the sandbox by sharing it with local schools. An earth science teacher at a high school in North Carolina suggested that every school in the state should have a sandbox, stressing the importance of this innovation as an important tool for teaching students about geology.

Google Map of AR Sandboxes around the globe. Click map to view.

The AR Sandbox has even taken worldwide effect, inspiring people all over the globe to take the initiative in implementing and even expanding upon the exhibit to fit their individual purposes. From the high school robotics team in Ithaca, to the Catavento Cultural e Educacional science center in Brazil, and even to an exhibit at the Museum of Future Government Services in Dubai, the Sandbox has brought together communities in local research centers, museums, and classrooms to learn and become inspired by this scientific  innovation. The AR Sandbox has reached as far as Bold Park Community School in Perth, Australia, where it has been put to good use in classrooms since 2012. Rhys George, who constructed the sandbox at Bold Park, is currently conducting a research project focusing on children ages four to five and their interactions with the sandbox in a social constructivist environment.

To see more videos, photos, and additional information about AR Sandboxes, visit the External Installations page of Oliver Kreylos’ Sandbox website.

Catavento Cultural e Educacional photo courtesy of Oliver Kreylos’ website)
Catavento Cultural e Educacional Sandbox (photo courtesy of Oliver Kreylos’ website)
AR Sandbox at Bold Park Community School (photo courtesy of Rhys George)
AR Sandbox at Bold Park Community School (photo courtesy of Rhys George)
AR Sandbox at the Museum of Future Government Services, Dubai (photo courtesy of Oliver Kreylos’ website)



DIY Lake Science Now Available on the Apple App Store

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you can now download the Lawrence Hall of Science’s latest app, DIY Lake Science! It’s a free app, and it allows families and classrooms to explore lake science using hands-on demonstrations, videos, and a simulated lake.

DIY Lake’s Lawrence Hall of Science Page

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1.17 x 10^8 and counting…

Ever wondered just how many lakes there are in the world? It turns out, a whole lot!

Scientists based at Uppsala University in Sweden surveyed more than 8000 high-resolution Landsat 7 [1] images to create the largest database of the world’s water bodies, to date. Their estimate: 117 million lakes (> 0.2 hectares) cover the earth, making up nearly 4% of its glacier-free surface area. Laid end to end, the shoreline of these numerous lakes would circle the globe 250 times!

To ensure a reliable analysis, the lakes included in the new global lakes database, GLOWABO, needed to be 2000 square meters or larger, an area nearly the size of two Olympic swimming pools. Even the larger lakes could be tricky to identify: mountain shadows, nearby vegetation, and cloudy water confounded the analysis so the researchers needed to design an algorithm which could untangle any visual uncertainty.

Global lakes databases, like GLOWABO, can help scientists estimate the amount of carbon stored in lake-bottom sediments, as well as the amount of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) lakes release into the atmosphere each year.

While Minnesota boasts more than 10000 lakes, its lakes make up only a fraction of the world's lakes, according to recent research by Verpoorter et al. 2014.  Source:
The new global lakes database, GLOWABO, quantifies the total number of the world’s lake, including the more than 13000 lakes of Minnesota (the author’s home state), some of which are shown here in the Twin Cities’ chain of lakes. Source:

[1] Landsat is an Earth Resources Technology Satellite that was launched starting in 1972 to collect data and take remote images of the Earth. Earth-observing satellite missions are jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.