Geo Week News

May 29, 2012

Talk about a virtual sandbox...

05.29.12.sandbox

In web development, we talk about virtual sandboxes all the time – places we can play around on the internal network to see what web sites are going to look like before we make them live and open them up to Google’s all-seeing eye. But today I came across another type of virtual sandbox entirely.

In fact, it’s an augmented reality sandbox cooked up by researchers at UC Davis (and a few others) that allows you to create terrain maps with the scoop of a shovel and pour in virtual water with a simple hand gesture.

But it’s pointless to tell you about it when I can show you. Seriously, how cool is this (and there’s more here)?

 

How does it work? All the gritty details are here at Oliver Kreylos’s page, but, essentially, a Kinect looks down at the sand table, feeds the 3D data of the sand’s contours to some sophisticated software (soon to be available for free download), and then a projector feeds the information back down onto the sand in just about real time. Simple, right?

You might say it’s child’s play (were you keen on bad puns, as I am). I’m not sure why, but I love this image, provided by Kreylos. Something about the sophisticated technology contrasted with the sand toys, the very same ones we have kicking around the house, is just a perfect illustration of technology’s broad spectrum:

  

Researchers intend for the sandbox to become a learning tool, something that can be put into children’s museums to teach geospatial and mapping concepts, but there are clearly commercial applications here, too. Just think of how you could design a golf course! Or virtual worlds for gaming applications. 

Regardless, this is just the kind of thing that drives people’s imaginations, as evidenced by the fact that HuffPo has already picked up on it. Certainly, people are going to be paying more and more attention to the great work being done at KeckCAVES and UC Davis. 

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