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How to Build an Augmented Reality Sandbox

I was attending a military simulating and training conference as a teacher representative when I came across a man in the exhibit hall standing next to a large table filled with sand. But, as it turned out, the sand wasn't normal looking sand - what I saw in the sandbox completely blew my mind. He had a projector pointing down at the sand, an XBOX Kinect pointed at the sand and as I moved the white sand, the projection changed. This was my first experience with augmented reality and I decided I must build one for my school. This page shows the process and instructions of how I build the Augmented Reality Sandbox. If you are hoping to build one - don't wait, just do it! You, and everybody around you will be glad you did!

How to build an Augmented Reality Sandbox

I've included the plans for building the physical structure on the video above titled "How to Build an Augmented Reality Sandbox" because I had a tough time finding plans when I wanted to build one. The AR Sandbox method, concept and program were developed at the University of California - Davis; all of the technical information you need, including computer details, video card information, and downloadable programs are available on their website:

Supplies needed to build Augmented Reality Sandbox

All hardware is based off the suggestions posted on the AR Sandbox site from UC Davis

Xbox Kinect Mounting Bracket for Augmented Reality Sandbox

Several people have asked for the dimensions for the Xbox Kinect mount because I didn't include them in the video. I've included a picture with dimensions below:

Augmented Reality Sandbox in the Classroom:

I am a teacher and everything I build for and the Beals Science YouTube page is for educational purposes. The AR Sandbox has huge implications in education, especially in the Earth Sciences, and as a tool to engage young learners. With this in mind, I built our Augmented Reality Sandbox to be portable and usable in any classroom in my hometown. I developed a comprehensive list of instructions for how to set up, tear down and operate the AR Sandbox. I've decided to include those instructions here so that anybody who is building one can use these instructions as a guide for how they too can help inspire young people at schools, youth groups, community science centers and clubs. Feel free to borrow and alter the instruction packet as you see fit.

Uses of an Augmented Reality Sandbox - Resources for teaching with the AR Sandbox

  • Labs, activities and ideas for implementing the AR Sandbox into science instruction.

  • This document accompanies the AR Sandbox featured in the videos on this site as it travels to other schools so teachers can set it up and run it with ease. It is attached here as an example. Feel free to use it and/or alter it to best suit your needs.

Do you have resources you'd like to share? Email them to to add them to this list.

Beals Science Augmented Reality Sandbox in the news:

The Science Spot on Montana This Morning - CBS

The anchors of Montana This Morning stop by Craig Beals classroom to get a first look at the augmented reality sandbox.

Tech Insider - Business Insider

Business Insider contacted me asking to share the AR Sandbox video. Watch the video above.

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