AR Sandbox

DataLab's AR Sandbox. Image credit: Pamela Reynolds.

The Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox was created by computer scientist Dr. Oliver Kryelos at UC Davis DataLab, formerly from UC Davis’s W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), as part of an NSF-funded project on informal science education in collaboration with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center

The AR Sandbox brings big concepts of the earth sciences to life for elementary- to college-aged students and faculty researchers. This hands-on exhibit features real sand, a Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, a data projector, and open source simulation and visualization software. As users mold the sand, it is augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water (or lava!) allowing for the exploration of topographic maps and models. The goal of the AR Sandbox is to teach geographic, geologic, hydrologic, and vulcanic concepts—from assessing the meaning of a watershed to reading maps.

Dr. Oliver Kreylos demonstrating the AR Sandbox in action. Image credit: Pamela Reynolds.

The basic structure of the AR Sandbox. Image credit: Oliver Kreylos.

Using the software and design created at UC Davis, AR Sandboxes have now been installed at thousands of locations across the world, from museums and universities to middle and high schools.The AR Sandboxes have also visited the White House, the USA Science and Engineering Festival, and numerous international conferences. 

Davis Girl Scouts try out DataLab's AR Sandbox. Image credit: Pamela Reynolds.

The museum-grade AR Sandbox installed at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Image credit: Julie Silverman.

Known Installations of the AR Sandbox Worldwide

Visit the interactive map to view known AR Sandbox locations and information. Is your site missing? Let us know!

Build Your Own Sandbox

If you’re interested in building an AR Sandbox for your location, you can find more information, software, tutorials, and installation instructions here. While all software is open source and free for you to use, you will need to source your own materials.

What People Are Saying

Here are a few testimonials from AR Sandbox users around the world.

"We have used your software since 2016 – we have a center in Easton, Pennsylvania and serve K-12 and adults, all who love our sandbox."

"We have built and are using an AR Sandbox at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. The sandbox and the software are fantastic, and it never gets old to play with it, thank you for that!"

"I present our newly completed AR Sandbox to serve students and the general population of this region of Brazil, near the Pantanal…Congratulations on this fantastic tool!"

"I am part of the Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. We have one of your AR sandboxes in our exhibit hall and it is such a wonderful teaching tool for our K-12 students as well as adults from the public!"

"First, I have to thank you for your amazing project, AR Sandbox, and making it so easy to recreate what you developed! I have helped set up an AR Sandbox at the zoom Kindermuseum in Vienna and am now helping to set up the same at a museum in Speyer."

"We outfit early childhood centers (pre-K, headstart, daycares, etc). We love your AR Sandtable creation!"

"I am working as a technician in the Marine Science Institute of CNR in Bologna (Italy) and I think that your project is an incredible teaching tool for schools!"

"I wanted to thank you for sharing this awesome educational tool…The science department was completely shocked and the students are completely amazed by it."

"This summer, I watched 7 high school students build an AR Sandbox. It was 100% all their own work...they did everything from build the computer from components to the woodworking of the actual box. They were proud and excited to see it working last week! It is such a great project and we really appreciate everything you have done to make it so accessible and open source."

"I work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a wildlife refuge in New York. Our exhibit hall/visitor center has one of these sandboxes and it's well loved!"

"We have got one of your sandbox software exhibits onsite and it is a very popular exhibit seen by about 200,000 people every year in our science centre."

"I am the Gallery Technical Specialist, conducting ongoing maintenance and upkeep with the exhibits in Autodesk’s gallery space in San Francisco. We see close to 25,000 guests a year if not more, and the AR Sandbox is a huge hit here."

"And the sandbox is a blast. Everyone’s jaw ALWAYS drops when they see it for the first time. This is such an amazing project. One person couldn't stop giggling when they made it rain with their hand... referencing it to witchcraft-like functionality. Simply fantastic!"

Support the AR Sandbox

At UC Davis DataLab we’re committed to developing open software and technologies for social good. Please consider supporting the AR Sandbox and DataLab to ensure we can continue providing cutting edge data science resources to education and research communities around the world.