Augmented Sandbox: Realtime 3D Topographic Landscaping


[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]


Simulating an amazing array of natural environments and phenomena, this dynamic playspace turns ordinary hand-sculpted sand into vividly colorful landscapes in the blink of an eye.


A real and working augmented reality sandbox, the system is designed to help educate students about earth sciences with a uniquely responsive and intuitive interface.


A team of data visualization and earth sciences experts, mainly from the University of California, created the setup using a Microsoft Kinect camera coupled with topographic visualization software and a 3D data projector.

From rough prototypes to its present state, the project has come a long way in terms of the level of rendering detail and response speed.

augmented reality sandbox

Tapping into a familiar form of childhood play, the project “allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees [and more].”

Of course, one can imagine an array of applications of this technology beyond classrooms and science museums, from Minecraft-style, construction-centric games to simulators and modeling tools for landscape architects and urban designers.

interactive 3d projected sandbox

More about this amazing project: UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), together with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research CenterLawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, is involved in an NSF-funded project on informal science education for freshwater lake and watershed science. The sandbox hardware was built by project specialist Peter Gold of the UC Davis Department of Geology. The driving software is based on the Vrui VR development toolkit and the Kinect 3D video processing framework, and is available for download under the GNU General Public License.”

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Sand Cities: Geometric Architecture Sculpted from Beaches


[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

geometric micro city structures

A serious step beyond traditional sand castles, these sculptural micro-structures range from simple sets of cubes to miniature buildings and architectural complexes.

geometric sand pavillion stairs

geometric sand building design

geometric mini city complex

Calvin Seibert of New York recently traveled to Hawaii to complete his latest series of semi-abstract beach sculptures, employing skills he has learned as an assistant sculptor and in carpentry and construction trades.

geometric micro urban design

geometric sand micro buildings

micro architecture sand city

The results exhibit an uncanny grasp of architecture, design and composition, balancing structure and space within individual mini-buildings and larger arrays alike. Crisp edges and smooth curves make them look almost like stone or concrete.

geometric beach abstract art

mini micro curved sculpture

geometric beach art wall

Some of his pieces draw on landscaped earthworks and urban layouts, while others show off a whimsical and eclectic mix of imagination, art and geometry.

geometric beach architecture design

geometric sand castle art

geometric villa design mini

Naturally, the tides always turn on these creations, flattening them back out as the ocean rolls in, making each a temporary expression, but in many cases one could imagine a permanent, life-sized version standing the test of time.

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Window Sketches: Minimalist Landscapes of Steam & Glass


[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

steam glass sketch photos

No smoke-and-mirrors or post-production here, just fleeting vignettes swiftly staged on steamed windows and set against natural outdoor backgrounds.

steam water walking alone

Jim Osborne is a self-taught landscape artist who typically works in watercolor, acrylic and oils. He describes himself as being inspired by his surroundings, light and the weather. Recently, however, he has begun working in a new direction with water condensation on glass window surfaces.

band of brothers art

His Steamy Windows Collection represents a bit of a departure for him in terms of tools and approach – the work is necessarily fast, drawing on organic backdrops, lighting conditions and perceptual cues. Each piece is shot quickly as well, and prints can be found for sale on his website.

steam water window drawing

With the need for speed, every little gesture counts – the results are simultaneously planned but ultimately uncontrolled, a mixture of simple figures and hasty grounds that somehow manages to look like more than the sum of its parts. The approach seems like a a great way to train oneself to think in an agile fashion and be nimble in execution.

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Urban Islet: Nordic Nature Retreat Floats in London Canal


[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

wildlife wood finnish design

Referencing rocky Nordic island sanctuaries, this platform is designed to provide a place to relax and observe local wildlife in the heart of a bustling city. The prefabricated structure was lifted into the canal by crane and pushed into place by a tiny tugboat, all in a single day.

floating urban wildlife platform

Viewpoint was created for the London Wildlife Trust by Finnish architects of AOR. Of their inspiration: “For Finns, [small] islands are places of sanctuary, to relax the mind and get away from hectic city life. Viewpoint offers Londoners a chance to experience this escape on a secluded islet in the heart of the city.”  It is to be a permanent fixture of Regent’s Canal, located in Camley Street Natural Park.

floating islet concept context

wildlife platform floating london

As the architects alluded to, this minimalist approach and triangular architecture are modeled on the vernacular of traditional temporary dwellings found further north. Such residential retreats are situated on small islands and used for hunting and fishing excursions. Typically, these humble abodes are made using natural at-hand materials including tree bark, branches, leaves and mosses.

floating islet facade elevation

floating islet kings cross

Unveiled by the The Finnish Institute in London and The Architecture Foundation, the finished design is definitively Finnish, created with acoustics, human scale and tactile experiences in mind, and factoring in how materials will weather over time. The result features modest volumes and a warm wooden frame rising up from concrete and clad in Corten steel. In turn, this made-to-age material palette will increasingly blend the structure in with its surroundings.

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