AR Sandbox is the result of an NSF-funded project on informal science education for freshwater lake and watershed science developed by the UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), together with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center.
The project combines 3D visualization applications with a hands-on sandbox exhibit to teach earth science concepts. The augmented reality (AR) 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.
One goal of this project was to develop a real-time integrated augmented reality system to physically create topography models which are then scanned into a computer in real time, and used as background for a variety of graphics effects and simulations. The final product is self-contained and ideal for use as a hands-on exhibit in science museums.
Furthermore, this project seeks to raise public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater lake ecosystems and earth science processes using immersive three-dimensional (3-D) visualization of lake and watershed processes, supplemented by tabletop science activity stations.