What is the Sandbox?

The augmented reality (AR) sandbox is an open source real-time representation of geographic terrain to convey different biomes of the world. Developed by the UC Davis' Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences in cooperation with the UC Davis Department of Geology, the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization (IDAV) and the UC Davis Computational Science and Engineering Center (CSE), the project is to spread public awareness and educate people on the many physical landscapes such as mountains, rivers, and lakes and explore the properties of nature. Our sandbox, is currently one of three models in British Columbia. Eclipse Geomatics has partnered with the Bulkley Valley Research Centre to initiate an educational watershed-based program highlighting the sandbox and its features.


The AR Sandbox is a 40" x 30" table that holds up an encapsulated space filled with sand. The sand allows people to interact by moving, forming and digging around in the sand. Above the table are two apparatuses pointed down onto the table: a short throw projector and a Kinect device. The two devices are attached to a high-end graphics computer that allows the projector to mirror the monitor display down onto the sand. The two cameras work in tandem to detect the displacement of sand and adjust the display accordingly. For example, when a pile of sand is formed into a mountain, the computer will identify the shape of the sand and generates topographic elevation bands to represent the mountain.


The sand we use is no ordinary sand found at the beach! It's a safe-to-use type of sand called Santastik Sand which has features of a shallow angle of repose and apparent projection properties. The sand has been tested and ensured there are no traces of any type of minerals commonly found in asbestos. We also encourage hand washing before and after each use to maintain a clean environment of the sand.


Circular lines around a mountain called contour lines appear to inform the viewer of the different levels of elevation. The closer the contour lines are together, the steeper the slope. Popular features include the visual effect of simulating weather events such as: rain, snow, ice and lava. The water events are activated by spreading your hand out and moving it above sand level. Once activated, you can observe the interaction of the weather events with different mountain heights, rivers and lakes.

Business Opportunities

We offer services of deploying and renting our sandbox in areas nearby. If this interests you, contact us via phone or email found on our Contact page.

For further information, check out the UC Davis official page.