Sandbox Topographical Play Gets A Big Resolution Boost

Here’s another virtual sandbox meets real sandbox project. A team at UC Davis is behind this depth-mapped and digitally projected sandbox environment. The physical sandbox uses fine-grained sand which serves nicely as a projection surface as well as a building medium. It includes a Kinect depth camera over head, and an offset digital projector to add the virtual layer. As you dig or build elevation in parts of the box, the depth camera changes the projected view to match in real-time. As you can see after the break, this starts with topographical data, but can also include enhancements like the water feature seen above.

It’s a big step forward in resolution compared to the project from which the team took inspiration. We have already seen this concept used as an interactive game. But we wonder about the potential of using this to quickly generate natural environments for digital gameplay. Just build up your topography in sand, jump into the video game and make sure it’s got the attributes you want, then start adding in trees and structures.

Don’t miss the video demo embedded after the break.

[Thanks Jake]

21 thoughts on “Sandbox Topographical Play Gets A Big Resolution Boost

  1. I hope you understand that you have created one of the most awesome things I have ever seen! I am not just saying that this is AMAZING! Very technical as well as highly aesthetic. I applaud you Sir!

  2. That is really, really cool. I caught myself thinking, “Careful! You’ll spill water on the loungeroom floor”.

    I’d love to see this develop into something more than just a simulator. I may perhaps attempt it if that were the case…

    1. Some more words:
      It seems like one could take the image data and determine the color of each ‘block’ to determine if some area should be a hunk of rock or wood, rather than sand. Even neglecting this, Imagine building a big sand castle and converting it into a Minecraft chunk. :)

  3. I’d love to make one of these but I’m far too poor to get myself a connect or a projector. My thoughts for this project would be a table top game. Have it detect several types of “units” that can be moved in a warhammer type manner. I think displaying the firing radius, health, ammo, and other stats would be very cool for any unit that you tapped a finger on. Lots of table top players geek out over their carefully created tables. This would put them all to shame.

    1. I hit submit right as another thought occurred to me (sorry about the double post). Whenever a piece is simply removed from the field have it assume the piece was killed and draw on an appropriate blood splatter or pile of burning debris. Fire would be pretty cool on this because it would animate during game play. I bet you could even do a fair job rendering sharing across curves and shadows of units as fires flicker.

  4. I think the reason this video looks so good is because the projector is well aligned with video camera shooting the action. In the earlier post projection was from above. Not sure this one would look so good from another viewpoint.

  5. This is an incredible input and display device! But I wonder what would it take to reverse the process? Something similar to one of those “pin clocks” where each pin is pushed up/out to represent a pixel?

    How cool would it be to design something in a world creator or sketchup and port it back to the sand table? A device similar to a 3D printer with a sand moving head. The math behind sand behavior is can’t be that complex. Well no now more complicated than calc III anyway…

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