UC Davis researchers develop innovative augmented reality system

Virtual Sand box video

AR system creates real-time water

A group of software developers from the UC Davis Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences have developed an augmented reality system that uses Microsoft’s famed Kinect platform to create realistic landscapes. The system, called the Augmented Reality Sandbox, can paint a topographical map on a flat surface, such as tables. While it is not the first system to bring augmented reality to tables, it features something that is currently quite rare in the world of AR: Real-time water.

Developers make use of Kinect to make system more realistic

The system’s developers created a system that can simulate the movements of water over various terrains. This digital water can interact with the virtual landscape it is a part of, but it can also respond to actual physical stimulus. Using the motion sensors of the Kinect platform, a wave of a hand can send ripples through virtual bodies of water. Developers have also demonstrated that the water can be lifted and moved to other locations on the map. The landscape itself can also be manipulated by users, allowing people to create their own geologic structures.

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Developers believe that the Augmented Reality Sandbox could be useful in museums

The augmented reality system is still in its early stages, but developers have plans to eventually install it at museums around the country. The system could allow museum-goers to experience history in a new way. Such a system could be used in a number of different exhibitions, providing visitors with an interactive experience that they would not soon forget. Developers claim that finished product will be entirely self-contained, allowing anyone to make use of it with no supervision or guidance. The project was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

AR may have vast, untapped educational value

The Augmented Reality Sandbox is a powerful example of the capabilities of the technology. Many have considered the technology only useful in the fields of marketing and gaming, but UC Davis believes that augmented reality has untold potential as an education system.

More information on the Augmented Reality Sandbox can be found here.

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