AR sandbox help

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    Hi guys,

    I’ve been asked to help someone at work get one of these ‘AR sandboxes’ for an event in August. I work for a nature charity and they want to have one of these AR sandboxes at an event so they can show the public how a reserves landscape has changed

    On searching online you don’t seem to be able to buy a setup but rather as described in this website piece it together yourself? (does anyone know someone that sells ready to go setups?)

    I worry if I have to set it up myself I may not have enough time – so to ask people that have experience – do you think I can order the kit and setup for the above in say a week or two?

    It seems to be a case of me ordering – 1) digital projector 2) older model Kinect camera 3) linux PC up to specc
    Then building a sandbox to spec
    And then installing the ‘free software’ listed on this site and following the setup vid

    Is it as simple as that?


    Hi OlliyFox, welcome to the forum
    you canbuy a ready made Sandbox, expect to pay quite a bit for it though. Google will show some retailers in your area, most commercially available ones are based on a russian software similar to SARndbox. I wouldn’t suggest you go that route as it will not only be very expensive but can also take quite a while to ship.
    About building it yourself: Factor in about 800$ for a decent PC, 500$ for a projector and around 150$ for wood, sand and hardware. Add to that a mouse and keyboard and you are at 1,5k. Also this will leave you with an AR Sandbox you have no real use for.
    Do not underestimate the building part. Depending on how handy you are and the build quality you are aiming for it will take quite a while. It took us weeks, admittedly with little experience and without a proper wood workshop.
    Also, you say building it to spec – there is no spec, it greatly depends on your projector, the one most guides are based on is sold out at the time.
    If you have prior linux experience and know what you are doing it is indeed really simple to install the software, if you don’t it can get difficult.
    Doing it in a week is possible if you are willing to spend every day on it. Perhaps i’m exaggerating, i guess engineering students tend to overthink. I’d love to hear how long it took others in the forum to build theirs.

    I´m not telling you not to build your own Sandbox, it is definitely possible, many have done it. But if you have absolutely no passion for it, it may become quite a dread.

    My suggestion would be to first try to borrow or rent an AR Sandbox, at the bottom of this site you will find a world map of publicly accessible AR Sandboxes, perhaps there is one near you. Additionally you could try to search for your area and “AR Sandbox”, they tend to attract media attention and especially schools will post quite proudly about their latest gadget.
    We have a fully functional one in Cologne, Germany. I’d gladly lend it to you but i’m afraid you live far away.

    Alternatively you can always contract a carpenter near you for the woodwork and find an enthusiastic student willing to take care of the installation and configuration for little money.

    Greetings from Germany,


    Hi Olly, as David said – with a short time frame then prior Linux knowledge is probably the biggest hurdle.

    On a good day… (and it’s your 3rd rebuild..) you simply follow the install instructions and it bursts into life.

    In the real world, the install instructions are seriously cryptic until you’ve been around the loop a few times.

    If you have some Linux knowledge – or can get a tame geek – then the only real hurdle to having a go at it, is the cost of a specific type of projector. As far as I understand it – the quirk with the projector is that it needs an uncommon throw ratio of around 1:1 or less – when it is 1 metre (3ft) from the sand it basically needs to throw an image 1 metre(3ft) or more wide, and this is an unusual configuration.

    Its neither the common short throw projector – like often used in a classroom, nor is it normal/long throw which is the common style. I have just got an epson powerlite 1761w Ebay US$400 to test.

    For testing you can leave the water simulation turned off and the software/xbox sensor combination will run on any(?) (most?) gaming grade machines, so you can get started pretty easily, then grab a proper graphics card when you are confident.

    The physical construction is pretty straight forward and can be pretty cheap/temporary. Its only really navigating Linux thats the big headache for us noobs.

    FWIW – you should have a quick try – its easy to find out how much of a learning curve it is for you – just grab/borrow a decent gaming PC and a kinect camera, drop in a spare drive with a new linux install as per the instructions. Don’t worry about a projector for a start – get it working on two screens – if you can get it starting/stopping/ and beginning to calibrate the alignment process then all good and it’s time to think about a projector. Ignore the sand until everything is working on a table top or wall, then start thinking about the hardware build.

    Good luck.



    Thanks for your replies guys and some good advice!

    I work in IT and did Linux at uni so fairly confident I can follow the linux setup instructions I find here –

    We’ve got some people with wood working skills to make the unit for us and I’ve ordered a PC that should be up to the job (DELL XPS 8920 – 1070 & i7 7700), a first gen Kinect camera and this projector – (which I read someone else used –

    Fingers crossed!


    Good luck and at least try not to make it look too easy !!

    I found malamakers script seriously handy

    and I assume you found projectioncentrals throw distance calculator for sizing sandbox design.


    Thanks Grant that website is really useful and I hadn’t got round to that yet

    My sandbox is being made to be 100cm by 65cm and I make that 119 diagonal. The calculator states it needs to be mounted 99cm high to give me 119 diagonal. They’re making the wood up to mount the projector on 200cm high so I can always unscrew and move up if need be

    Just got the kinetic camera and discovered no USB – I need to buy one of these –

    Getting there! (and thanks again for your replies)


    (I take it the image is to the base ie. to be able to colour the deepest bits and well I assume the top bits of sand could be slightly out of focus but a) I doubt we’ll notice much as it’s just colours and not fine detail and b) we have the zoom function for a bit of up and down)


    Damn – I spent today following the setup instructions and got it working but then the projector bulb blew!

    I’m going to get onto Amazon and see if I can get a replacement asap. But to ask here – I wonder if the bulb blowing was anything bar bad luck? I assume having the projector at a downward angle is fine. Maybe the software is overworking it? Anyone else had projector bulbs blow during setup?


    On speaking to the projector people they say it was simply bad luck – I should be able to angle it downwards without issue and equally no software setup should “over work it”. Good news is on following the instructions I ran into no errors and had it setup and working in a day. The fiddly bit is configuring the boundaries but the video walks you through it well. It’s also proper cool – had the whole department coming over going wow! 🙂

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