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Home » News » Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox

Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox

Understanding the Technology

Augmented reality is a technology that combines the physical and virtual world. The sandbox is an interactive augmented reality 3D exhibit - it uses computer-generated images or content and overlays it onto the real-world environment (i.e. a sandbox)

A 3D camera detects the distance to the sand below, which works with the AR software to project geographical features such as greenland, water, etc. onto the sandbox in real-time.

Once the sand moves, the 3D camera perceives changes in the distance to the sand surface, and the projected colors and contour lines change accordingly.

AR Sandbox in Bangkok

Working with the Sandbox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA4uvkAStPc&t=56s

  • Make it Rain: Hold your hands above the sandbox until you see water form on the sandbox surface

  • Build a Mountain or Dam

  • Dig a Lake

  • Sculpt a River

Learning Goals

Big Idea: The sandbox is a flexible educational tool that can be used to explore the importance of water. Water is a critical resource for all life on earth. When water flows on the earth’s surface, it travels, converges and diverges based on the shape of landforms.  

Science Learning Objectives:

As a result of engaging in play with the AR sandbox, students will be able to understand the concepts detailed in the list below. Outcomes will vary depending on the inquiry path followed and the age and base level of knowledge of the students.


  • The shape of the earth’s surface defines regions called watersheds

  • Watersheds are areas of land which drain to a particular body of water

  • There are a variety of ways in which watersheds impact ecosystems and humans.

Topographic Maps

  • Understand the construction of topographic maps and the use of contour lines to show the earth’s surface in three dimensions

  • Create a 3-dimensional model from a topographic map

Landforms and Geology

  • Understand how the earth’s surface changes through natural processes like erosion and deposition, which are driven by movement of water

  • Create a physical model of a variety of landforms

  • Explore erosional and depositional processes


  • Understand how liquid water moves on the earth’s surface and how its flow relates to land surface elevation and shape

  • Develop an awareness of the watershed in which they live

  • Understand the diversity of landforms and water bodies found on the planet

  • Develop a list of ways to conserve water and protect watersheds at home or at school

Facilitation Guide for further information: https://arsandbox.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Shaping-Watersheds-AR-Sandbox-Facilitation-Guide.pdf

Credit to UC Davis: https://arsandbox.ucdavis.edu/

The AR Sandbox concept, design and programs were developed at the University of California - Davis. We appreciate them making the software available so we could build one for our school.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018