UCLA’s Augmented Reality Sandbox

The Augmented Reality Sandbox allows students and the public to interact with a miniature landscape, sculpting mountains, valleys, rivers and even volcanoes, with off the shelf readily available parts.

Topographic maps are crucial tools used by geologists, geographers and adventurous hikers. A newly-built apparatus at UCLA makes topographic maps fun and interactive for everyone by projecting them in 3D.


So this is our augmented reality sandbox. It was developed originally by researchers at UC Davis. We’re going to be using it here at UCLA to help students learn about typography. So they can take a topographic map in the classroom and recreate the features by manipulating the sand, like taking one mound and making it into two mounds. Then I can make it rain over the top of this, and I could see how the water flows down the sides of the hills. Push that material up in here that water wants to go somewhere else, and now it’s going to float it through this channel into our reservoir below. So when the students are on the field, they don’t have a sandbox to recreate what they have on the map. They can recreate in their head. They can build a mental model and identify where they’re identifying certain features in the area.

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