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.

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

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.

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.

Note: Please visit for the most up-to-date AR Sandbox location map. 

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)



22 thoughts on “Augmented Reality Sandboxes Around the World

  1. I am looking at that sweet map of builds and I feel that Arizona could use some recognition.

    My buddy and I built a box for Dungeons and Dragons use. Would that, coupled with pictures from the build and some of our playing pictures, warrant a flag in Mesa, AZ?

    Absolutely love what you guys have built here.

  2. You can add one more to you ever growing list. This sandbox is portable. Built and run by Steven Sobieszczyk.

    Located at:
    U.S. Geological Survey
    2130 SW 5th Ave.
    Portland, OR 97201

  3. We have a Sandbox in the Marine Institute, in Galway, Ireland since July 2015, with a second more portable version on the way. We use it for science shows, outreach, and school visits. It is brilliant for demonstrating how the seabed mapping we do with MultiBeam EchoSounders works, and is in real demand here. Thanks a million Oliver. There are pictures of our set-up here:

  4. The Centre for Environmental Geography from National Autonomus Univeristy of Mexico (CIGA-UNAM) has a portable ARsandbox and we have participated in several activities. The last one activitie in which we participated was the event known as Tianguis de las Ciencias (the name remember the popular Mexican street markets) at Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo.

    It was an amazing party where everybody from several regions of the Michoacan state were welcome to enjoy closely the sciences done in our state.

    Here you can find some pictures of our ARsandbox in the Michoacan university webpages:

    Location: 19.6485841,-101.2279572
    Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

    Many congratulations for this project.

  5. Not public but being used for outreach and recruitment

    Surveying and Spatial Sciences group
    University of Tasmania
    Hobart, Tasmania
    Location -42.9020289,147.3268065


  6. First AR Sandbox in Montana, U.S.A?
    Can we get added to your World Map please?

    Up and running, first shown in public at the Lewis & Clark County Water Quality Protection District’s July 26th, 2016, Open House.
    Sandbox Location:
    East Helena
    Montana, USA 59635

  7. Hi Oliver,

    We have one set up at John Barclay Elementary School, in Central Bucks School District. We are located in Warrington, PA, USA. We are excited to begin using it with students this school year!!!


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