Kinect-augmented sandbox lets you play god with mountains and water

I just saw this on Reddit, it’s a Kinect-application like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Using the depth capabilities of the Kinect in conjunction with a projector, it turns a sand pit into a virtual environment model for water simulation SimCity style.

The video description explains,

Video of a sandbox equipped with a Kinect 3D camera and a projector to project a real-time colored topographic map with contour lines onto the sand surface. The sandbox lets virtual water flow over the surface using a GPU-based simulation of the Saint-Venant set of shallow water equations.

We built this for an NSF-funded project on informal science education. These AR sandboxes will be set up as hands-on exhibits in science museums, such as Lawrence Hall of Science or the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Although the video demonstration shows a delay in the environment from reacting to changes to the sandpit, the author explains this is actually on purpose to filter out moving objects such as the hand when reshaping the environment. The rendering is currently powered by a Geforce 580.

There is also a second video which simulates a dam failure using the same system.

After seeing this I would imagine there are many more engineering-related simulations this sort of Kinect-augmented reality could make more interactive if not fun. If all else fails, who doesn’t like to play god.