Shaping SWFL Watersheds An Interactive, Augmented Reality Sandbox

The IMAG History & Science Center features an exciting new interactive exhibit called Shaping SWFL Watersheds. Augmented reality (AR) is a computer-generated sensory input technology that superimposes images onto real-world environments creating composite views that encourage people to interact with the technology. The real-world environment of Shaping SWFL Watersheds is actually an interactive AR sandbox.

Shaping SWFL Watersheds uses a computer projector and a motion-sensing device that, when people interact with the AR sandbox, the exhibit detects changes and responds accordingly generating live topographical maps in real time. The sandbox generates live images onto the surface of the sand in various colors and contour lines distinguishing elevations and watersheds as well as live images of surface changes when the sand is shaped and reshaped. As such, the sandbox generates water flow simulations with surface changes based on real models of fluid dynamics; water appears to flow down the slopes to lower surfaces. What’s more with this exhibit, people can also cause it to rain; virtual rain appears on the surface of the sandbox shimmering and blue while it flows into watershed areas. Because water is a critical resource for all life, Shaping SWFL Watersheds is an important educational tool that can be used to explore the importance of water relative to the study of hydrology, earth science, and environmental studies. For example, when water flows on the surface, it converges or diverges based on the shape of landforms. This distribution of water leads to watersheds which play an important role in our ecosystems around the world. “As Florida continues to seek solutions to watershed issues, exhibits like Shaping SWFL Watersheds will help to educate the public and encourage further exploration,” said Matthew Johnson, Executive Director, the IMAG History & Science Center.

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