Open AR-Sandbox

  Open AR-Sandbox Copyright: © CGRE

Augmented Reality Sandboxes are a great tool for science outreach and teaching due to their intuitive and interaction-enhancing operation. Recently AR Sandboxes are becoming increasingly popular as interactive exhibition pieces, teaching aids and toys.

AR Sandboxes consist of a box of sand that can be freely sculpted by hand. The topography of the sand is constantly scanned with a depth camera and a computed image is projected back onto the sand surface, augmenting the sandbox with digital information.

However, most of these common AR Sandboxes are limited to the visualization of topography with contour lines and colors, as well as water simulations on the digital terrain surface. The potential for AR Sandboxes for geoscience education, and especially for teaching structural geology, remains largely untapped.

For this reason, we have developed open-AR-Sandbox, an augmented reality sandbox designed specifically for the use in geoscience education. In addition to the visualization of topography it can display geologic subsurface information such as the outcropping lithology, creating a dynamic and interactive geological map. The relations of subsurface structures, topography and outcrop can be explored in a playful and comprehensible way.


  • compatible with most AR Sandbox builds
  • subroutine for calibration and alignment of depth image, sand surface and projection
  • versatile model creation with the powerful GemPy library
  • open-source under LGPL v3.0 license
  • fully customizable color map, contours and fault line visualization
  • We recently added computer vision algorithms to the sandbox that open up a whole new field of possibilities! By placing printed markers into the sandbox, thew user can trigger actions or define points, lines and areas in the sandbox without using the computer

For more information, please see our CGRE Github page.