The Topographic Map of the Future is an Augmented Reality Sandbox

August 14, 2018 1 Comment

The Topographic Map of the Future is an Augmented Reality Sandbox

By Ishveena Singh

Eduard Imhof, a Swiss cartography professor who pioneered relief shading, once said, “In cartographical affairs, as in all graphic work, the greatest clarity, the greatest power of expression, balance and simplicity are concurrent with beauty.” Indeed, lovingly-crafted topographic maps are every bit as beautiful as they are useful. And there’s nothing quite like an Augmented Reality Sandbox that fuses scientific elements of topography into an emotional and sensory experience.

How an Augmented Reality Sandbox works

In an Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox, an Xbox Kinect and a data projector and used to superimpose 3D visualization applications on a real, hands-on sandbox. The end result is a real-time, interactive topographic map – complete with contour lines and simulated water on the sand surface. You can adjust the topography using your hands, or a rake or a shovel.

And when the camera senses your hand at a predefined height above the sand surface, virtual blue water presents itself in form of a simulated rain of sorts. Following a flow simulation model, the water moves across the topography. You could either fill up a valley to create a lake or let the water slowly disappear as it gets filtered into the soil.

Devised as an educational tool to make students familiar with earth science concepts, the AR Sandbox can be used to teach young learners concepts like the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc., without having them fall asleep in 2 minutes. But to truly understand how awesome this blend of technology and cartography is, you need to watch the video below:

The original AR Sandbox

The first AR Sandbox was developed in 2012 by the researchers at University of California, Davis for a project funded by the National Science Foundation. The good folks at WM Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences collaborated with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center to cultivate an idea floated by a group of Czech researchers a year ago.

The best part is that the AR Sandbox is an open source project. UC Davis has filled this page with a step-by-step guide and all the information you may need to build your own AR Sandbox: the hardware, software required, calibration techniques, et al. The project has anyway gained enough traction to warrant its own support forum. If you do end up making your own AR Sandbox, we would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

About the Author

Photo of Ishveena SinghIshveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a veteran of creating and managing compelling digital content for organizations and individuals. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find her exploring nature, eating her way through life, or binge-watching funny animal videos.


1 Response

Marco C
Marco C

August 27, 2018

Es un aporte al impacto ambiental a la minería

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