Sim City fascinates millions of players who are able to manipulate urban environments to their liking. UCLA has created a kind of nature-based alternative, and one that looks more satisfying in that the user physically manipulates an actual material, sand in a sandbox. An Xbox Kinect reads the shapes you create, then a computer and projector overlay graphics updated in real-time. Take a look at this thing:
To be clear, this Augmented Reality Sandbox is meant as an educational tool, not a videogame. UCLA’s Modeling and Educational Demonstrations Laboratory in the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences reckon they can use it for undergraduate science courses. But if they can mass-produce these, I think they’d have a potentially huge market for children—at least the children of parents who work in Silicon Valley. Would you rather your kid made mud-pies, or sculpted facsimiles of Napa Valley?
In addition to the cool “make it rain” feature, the DEPSS also claims the system allows one to create volcanoes that can erupt. What kid wouldn’t want to pull that one off? And the bonus is you wouldn’t need to clean up the baking soda afterwards.