May 11, 2012

The NBT: Interactive Sandboxes


Josh: This week it is a new spin on an old playground past time — playing in the sandbox. Now you can build sandcastles in a virtual kingdom that is more realistic than ever.

Researchers at UC Davis in California have produced an interactive sandbox. Its goal? To teach people about topography, the study of earth’s surface shapes and features. Explorers get to see exactly how water would flow around a dam, or hills or valleys.

The virtual water and earth effects are created by a projector above the sandbox which displays computer generated images based on what is going on in the sand. How? Well, if you have played Xbox you probably know Kinect, which makes the game hands-free. The Kinect camera reads what is happening in the sandbox. Create a pit and the Kinect sees that. It instantly sends the information to the computer and the virtual water then reacts to what is happening in the sand.

The interactive sandbox is going on display at nearby science museums to give everyone a hands-on experience.


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