Real-time topography gives children and adults an interactive way to learn about landscape

Researchers at UC Davis have come up with an idea that fuses the physical and virtual in a way that will allow children to experience the world from a unique perspective – as opposed to immersing themselves in a screen of some sort.

While it may look like an ordinary sandbox, this particular play area comes to life once children have had their turn molding it’s contents into an intricate and varied landscape.

A camera mounted above the sandbox tracks the physical activity of those playing below. As the terrain is altered, a projector throws a dynamic topographic map on top of it all, updating contour lines and elevation colors in real time. The projector is even able to create a virtual rainstorm, sending water crashing down the peaks, as well as showing runoff and watershed on the landscape.

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