Bring a Kinect to the playground to create the coolest sandbox ever

Most of us remember playing in the sand as a child and we all remember how it was the greatest thing ever when you could build a sand castle and then destroy it in seconds only to rebuild the entire castle again. When you bring in the power of Kinect to a sandbox (no, not that sandbox), the video below shows an incredibly powerful tool when Kinect is combined with as seemingly unrelated object.

The video below, via, combines a projector, Kinect and the sandbox to create a live topographical environment that can be manipulated in real time. There is a slight delay in the alteration of the sand to the augmentation of the overlay but the importance here is to see the potential.

The video is described below:

Video of a sandbox equipped with a Kinect 3D camera and a projector to project a real-time colored topographic map with contour lines onto the sand surface. The sandbox lets virtual water flow over the surface using a GPU-based simulation of the Saint-Venant set of shallow water equations.

We built this for an NSF-funded project on informal science education. These AR sandboxes will be set up as hands-on exhibits in science museums, such as Lawrence Hall of Science or the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The end result shows the true power of Kinect. While it is a fantastic gaming peripheral, it also has other implementations that reach far beyond the traditional usage scenarios. With a low purchase price, nearly anyone can get their hands on the device and create tools like the one in the video above. 

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