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Turning a sandbox into an ecosystem with the Xbox Kinect

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December 1, 2011

The Xbox Kinect turns an ordinary sandbox into a thriving interactive environment.

The Xbox Kinect turns an ordinary sandbox into a thriving interactive environment.

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The Xbox Kinect has certainly become a useful tool for innovation, with modders finding applications in medical imaging, robotics, and even aids for the visually impaired, to name just a few. Now it looks like you can add "topography" to that list with the development of the SandyStation. Created by two students in the Czech Republic, the SandyStation projects a realistic ecosystem over an ordinary sandbox, which can be altered in real-time.

The students, Peter Altman and Robert Eckstein from the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, built the device using a Kinect, a data projector, a program of their own design, and of course, an ordinary box of sand. Sitting two feet above the sand, the Kinect monitors the varying heights and depths of the area and relays the information through a program to a projector. The projector then displays the topographical information on top of the sandbox as a series of specific colors. Each color represents a different height or depth, from dark blues for deep bodies of water to forest greens for the tops of hills, giving the sandbox the appearance of a thriving, lush environment.

That would be impressive enough, but the SandyStation can almost immediately respond to any changes made to the sandbox and alter the image accordingly. A person can carve out rivers with their hands and watch the "water" flow down a new path or scoop up a hill that appears to instantly sprout plant life. In a clever touch, the programmers have also made it possible to build a mountain and dig a hole out of the top to make it spew lava. The program will even show this virtual lava being extinguished if it runs into a body of water.

The SandyStation makes it possible to build a mountain and dig a hole out of the top to sp...

Writing the first prototype for the SandyStation only took the authors a few days, but they are still looking for further uses for it. In the future, there could be some mainstream uses for the technology in other industries such as education, advertising, or graphic design.

Source: Smart Mania via Engadget

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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4 Comments

This is awesome! Could you imagine how much fun it would be to layer a video game on this and be able to play it with your hands?

Tyler Jones
2nd December, 2011 @ 08:41 am PST

Add in some understanding of how landscapes affect weather patterns and this could be a brilliant tool indeed.

Von Meerman
2nd December, 2011 @ 01:03 pm PST

You mean they actually found something the Kinfect works for? Why not just write some software for a PC webcam? They would have saved money and it would have been just as easy since Microsh*t uses the same outdated, barely managable code for everything since XP/Vista.

Steve Mitchell
3rd December, 2011 @ 12:54 pm PST

Did not Trains give US a platform that you could v recreate almost anything?

Why can't a cross between both idea's be born?

Come to think of it SPORE lets you create almost anything with your own creature battles that can be shared on the NET!

MineCraft?

I am sure there are more! But I do like the alturnate use of a Theater Room Projector and all we need is a Prism, a Kenect, XBOX360 (XLA) or a LAPTOP with the right Kenect mod or Software! Then we are in business. I don't think we will then need the MS Light Table that is in development!!!! But that is a different Story!!

Scott Nth. QLD., Australia

Scott Bailey
4th December, 2011 @ 03:49 am PST
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