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Augmented Reality Sandbox


What is an Augmented Reality Sandbox?

The sandbox is a great hands-on tool for teaching people of all ages about geography and topography. A specialized Linux program uses a Microsoft Kinect camera to read the sand surface within the box and projects an interactive topographic map onto the sand. Hills, valleys, and rivers can be made with elevation and contour lines and are updated and displayed in real-time, bringing the terrain to life right before your eyes!


Where is the sandbox?

The sandbox is available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm and is located in the CCGT collaborative space in Cooper Library Room 412


See the Augmented Reality Sandbox in action

Experiment with using the new liquid colors in your designs and videos! Choose from water (dark blue), lava (red), toxic waste (green), and ice/snow (light blue).

What can you create?

Landscape features:

  • Hills & valleys: Use the mini shovels or your hands to sculpt the sand into hills and valleys. Higher elevations are represented by white, red, and orange, with lower elevations represented by yellow, green, and blue.

  • Water: Water is represented by rippling, deep blue sand. Hold your hand out with spread fingers above an area inside the sandbox to simulate a raincloud, and watch the simulated water flow over the landscape and collect in low areas.

  • DEM: You can recreate real-world topography in the sandbox. Press ‘O’ to activate the feature. Move sand from the blue areas to the red areas – when the sand turns white, you have the right elevation.

Other functions:

  • Rain: To make it rain over the entire sandbox, press the ‘R’ key on the keyboard.

  • Drainage: To drain the water, hold the ‘D’ key on the keyboard.

  • Pause: To pause/unpause the water and topography, press ‘P’ on the keyboard.

  • Attenuation: The flowing liquid can change speed to simulate water or lava.


How can you use it?

  • You can come by 412 Cooper Library and use it at your own discretion.

  • You can set up a tour with one of our experts on Sandbox to go over the features with you or your class.

  • You can also set up a training session on how sandbox can be utilized for your class or to show it off to the outreach program students.

 Submit the form on our Policies page to schedule a tour or training session.


Updates to the Augmented Reality Sandbox

Photo contest: Let your creativity shine!

Show off your most original and creative map or shape design! Participants can trace an image in the sandbox by using our projector, or can create a design by hand. We can supply legos, jenga blocks, and mini shovels, which are available upon request. You can also bring your own materials (no liquids please) to create an impressive scene in the sandbox.


How to Enter: Submit a picture of your finished sandbox design to our entry form using your smartphone at:


Prize: The winner will win a mini quadcopter drone with HD camera!


Contact us via the form on our Policies page if you would like to take a

functionality tour of the sandbox, need to use any

of our aforementioned supplies, or would like to trace your

image using the projector.


Share your educational style and your video editing skills by submitting an educational sandbox lecture! Participants will submit a 3-8 minute YouTube video teaching a topic of your choice with the virtual reality sandbox.
Topic ideas might include geography, topography, water cycle, hydrology, geology, and urban planning, but any academic discipline is welcomed!


You can create your video using your camera phone, or you can checkout equipment from the library, such as Camcorders, DSLR or a Tripod (to make sure you have a steady hand while recording the video) by going to to this link.


To Upload your video on YouTube, please follow the following instructions: 





How to Enter: Share your YouTube video on our entry form by using the URL at:


Prize: The winner will win a nano drone with a front-mounted camera with video function!


Contact us via the form on our Policies page if you would like to take a functionality tour of the sandbox, need to use any of our aforementioned supplies, or would like to trace your image using the projector.

lecture contest: Let your educational skills shine!

Stop by room 412 Cooper Library to try it out! Please give us feedback and suggestions on how we can improve the sandbox. Give us your input here:


We offer tours for courses and outreach activities. Please contact us directly with any questions. Help spread the word about these exciting contests with your friends and colleagues by forwarding them our fliers.

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