When was the last time you played with sand? The times of you sitting on the beach while piling it up to make castles, tunnels, and mountains with shovels and buckets seem far away, but now you can relive the memory with something even cooler.
The 3D Sandbox, or theAugmented Reality (AR) Sandbox, is a one-meter squared box filled with fine, loose sand with a Kinect camera and a projector hanging overhead. Participants can shape the sand to create hills, valleys, and rivers. The magic lies within the Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, the 3D visualization software, and the projector. They work together to measure the elevation of the sand's surface on a millimetric scale and then overlay a colour-coded topographic map atop the sand in real time.
In other words, when participants pile up ortake out a certain quality of sand with their hands or a shovel, the cameraautomatically records the physical movement below and computes the topographiccontours of the sand's surface. It then applies the contour lines and coloursto show the surface elevations. The squiggly lines indicate how tall it is andhow steep or gentle the slopes are, with red meaning high elevations and bluemeaning low.
Participants can even make it rain by putting their hands above the sandbox. The 3D visualization software will simulate the raindrops, and a torrent of blue water will flow naturally down the peaks and gather in the low spots.
The 3D sandbox is developed so you can gain a better understanding of topography and water systems. A team of researchers at UCDavis constructed the AR Sandbox in 2012 as part of a National ScienceFoundation-funded program. A video of them showing off the prototype has gathered over two million views onYouTube thus far. In the video, the researcher used a shovel and a rake to create hills, valleys, rivers, and rains."There's just no better way to teach how topographic contour lines work, or how water flows over a landscape, than building whatever terrain you can imagine, and then seeing the contours and the water react in real time to any changes you make," explains Oliver Kreylos, one of the lead UC Davis researchers on the project.
The AR Sandbox is a great interactive public display at hundreds of museums around the world. At ECHOLake Aquarium and Science Centre in Vermont, more than 43,000 visitors have engaged with the installation in 3 months. “We have watched our guests at every age dig in and explore with their hands, ask lots of questions, test ideas, and express curiosity and joy”, says Julie Silverman, the museum’s Director of New.“The Sandbox is a rare exhibit with replay value; people actually come back later for more time playing in the sand.”
Additionally, it is also a great teaching tool that has been used in the many classrooms. Teachers can demonstrate geologic and hydrologic concepts such as visualizing the landforms, understanding drainage basins, and investigating the impacts of coastal erosion. Students are immediately drawn to the AR Sandbox and start to experiment their ideas without much training. The real-time feedback, colourful surface, and the tactile experience of creating different shapes keeps us engaged.
Aside from the basic topographic map study, researchers are exploring how they can develop new functionality in the open-source software to show pressing issues, such as simulating natural flood management. This application will allow you to quickly understand complex problems and move sand around to explore solutions.
Interested in trying out the next generation of sandbox play? Come visit KMDI during Makerspace drop in hours.
Imagine being able to show someone else your vision more clearly by a 3-dimensional digital world you created. Whether it’s fashion, a creative piece or a scientific educational model Virtual Reality (VR) allows you to share your thoughts more clearly with others.
VR, or Virtual Reality, is an experience that immerses users into a simulated world. It brings people the full experience of a three-dimensional, computer-generated virtual environment via electronic equipment, such as a headset. When people put on the headset, they are seeing the display right in front of their eyes without distraction. These virtual environments are designed to be as realistic as possible, creating a level of immersiveness that causes users to believe that what they are perceiving through their vision, hearing, and touch is real, and thus allowing them to react to stimuli as they would in the real world.
After over 90 years of experimenting and prototyping, today’s VR is more than just for games and entertainment. Due to its interactive abilities, VR is an increasingly popular application in a variety of fields such as healthcare, fashion, and education.
"I was amazed at how realistic it was," said Dr. Peter Ferguson, head of orthopedic surgery at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
The medical school has bought a dozen of Canadian-made virtual reality systems, allowing surgical residents to practice techniques, such as knee replacements, through a simulated process without entering an operating room.
“If we can decrease incidences of complications by allowing these individuals to become more competent in this low-stakes environment, it will theoretically improve patient outcomes," said Dr. Ferguson.
Similarly, the hands-on, interactive feature also makes Virtual Reality a new solution in fashion design. For years, the drawings of garments were done by pencil and paper or programs such as Adobe Illustrator. As digital innovation grows, so do the opportunities brought by VR.
“When you’re in Virtual Reality, you can create freely, try different forms and shapes, experiment and try several options,” said Chiara Vincenzi, an art and design professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
In Vincenzi’s class, students useTilt Brush, a 3D-painting virtual-reality application available from Google, to create a dress design. During the first stage of ideation of a fashion garment, students are encouraged to go around the mannequin and explore shape, colour, and texture in the virtual world.
It was challenging for students at first because they were accustomed to using traditional tools, but after experimenting with the new brush, they realized the program’s potential for design. Vincenzi believes this process is more flexible and spontaneous, allowing her students to see their creations in different dimensions throughout the design process.
With the use of VR kits at the Makerspace, Michelle Lui, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Toronto Mississauga’s Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, and Rhonda McEwen, Associate Professor at Semaphore Lab, created a VR application for a second-year microbiology course at Carleton University.
“I was drawn to immersive technologies as a medium for learning abstract scientific concepts in part because you can engage the learner on a number of different levels,” said Michelle.“I was drawn to immersive technologies as a medium for learning abstract scientific concepts in part because you can engage the learner on a number of different levels,” said Michelle.
The VR simulation allows students to observe and interact with gene regulation processes, making it easier for them to grasp complex concepts that are fundamental to the upper-year microbiology courses. It has widely received positive feedback from the students.
Since the implementation of social distancing policies in 2020, VR has experienced an enormous rise. The future of VR is promising, as researchers and companies are trying to make the hardware smaller, lighter, and cheaper. This transformative technology will continue to revolutionize all kinds of industries.
Interested in trying out the futuristic VR headset and immersing yourself in a virtual world? Come visit KMDI during Makerspace drop-in hours.