Augmented Reality on the Wey

The River Wey Trust has access to an 'Augmented Reality Sandbox' - a piece of fascinating applied technology which helps understand topology, contours, water flow and is general fun... Modelled on work by UCA Davis' Dr Oliver Kreylos, the sandbox is ... a sandbox ... which is fitted with a sensor and projector which transforms the sand surface into a three dimensional topographical map. The process is dynamic, allowing the 'landscape' to be changed and structured, showing how that impacts the elevation mapping. The 'rain' provides insight into how those contours and elevations affect water flow, and visualise the effect of volumes of water (or 'snow' or 'lava').

As well as public exhibitions, this year we've taken the Sandbox to several schools, working with them for 'rivers and watersheds' topics, 'canals projects', 'rivers and floods', and for general learning fun. Some material supporting the topics is available from the Learning Resource page.

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... many hands make the rain fall ...
Waverley Abbey Junior School

Sandbox in a Stable ...



The Sandbox set up for the next class group at the Coombes CE Primary School in June 2018



How does the Augmented Reality Sandbox work?
AR Sandbox uses a computer projector and a motion sensing input device (a Microsoft Kinect 3D camera) mounted above a box of sand. When you shape the sand in the sandbox, the Kinect detects the distance to the sand below, and a visualization of an elevation model with contour lines and a colour map assigned by elevation is cast from an overhead projector onto the surface of the sand. Move the sand, and the Kinect perceives changes in the distance to the sand surface, and the projected colours and contour lines change accordingly.

Using a ‘make it rain’ gesture above the surface of the sand, virtual rain appears as a blue, shimmering visualization on the surface below. The water appears to flow down the slopes to lower surfaces. The water flow simulation is based on real models of fluid dynamics (a depth integrated version of the Navier-Stokes equations).
Pressing and holding the button “Drain” dries out the virtual water.
This version of the sandbox uses a Microsoft Kinect camera, the same camera used in video games. The Kinect uses an infrared projector, camera and special microchip to track the movement of objects in 3D. This is then processed by the modelling program using a computer equipped with a powerful graphics card . The resulting image is projected onto the sand with a short-range Promethean 35 projector.

Contact for more information.



The original model for the Augmented Reality Sandbox was developed in 2012 by the UC Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (Keck CAVES), using software made available by Dr Oliver Kreylos and is supported in the USA by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL 1114663.
For more information, please visit


For those interested, the computer used for our version has an Asus B250 Pro motherboard, an Intel i5 7400 7th Generation (Kaby Lake) processor, and a Palit Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 Game Rock Graphics processor.