Augmented Reality Sandbox Hits Worldwide Milestone

By Becky Oskin

With more than 500 installations on six continents, the UC Davis Augmented Reality, or AR, Sandbox, has become a worldwide phenomenon.

The Augmented Reality Sandbox shows how land forms affect water flow. (UC Davis KeckCAVES)

The AR Sandbox brings earth science to life by merging hands-on play with digital effects. The setup combines a real sandbox with a motion-sensing camera (such as a Microsoft 3D Kinect) and a digital projector. As people shape the sand with their hands or with tools, the camera detects the changes and a computer projects colors depicting elevation, vividly illustrating the principles of topographic maps. Users can also create rainstorms, lakes and rivers and immediately see how reshaping the sand surface changes the water flow.

Water storage: Going underground

In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee published Friday, UC Davis hydrologist Graham Fogg offers a new possibility for managing California’s water supply: putting it underground, back into the natural aquifer systems of the Central Valley.

Much of California’s water supply is stored in the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada. But snowpacks are in long-term decline as more precipitation falls as rain and less as snow, Fogg says. Upgrading and building dams would not be enough to make up the shortfall.