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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Digital Sandbox

Digital Sandbox

Augmented reality (AR) sandbox (credit: YouTube)


Growing up on coast of the Pacific Ocean there were miles of sandy beaches to play on. When my nephew was very young, we went to a secluded cove few people knew or visited. I read a book and he dug a hole in the sand with his pail and small digger. I asked him what he was doing and he answered directly: I'm looking for doubloons, those coins of pirate treasure stories. He didn't find any but continued doing what countless kids had done before and since when they went to the beach, played in the sand.

Times have changed in unimaginable ways since the 1960's with new technologies allowing the for creation of beach scenes that nobody could have ever predicted. Combining 'big data' sets with the topographic capabilities of geographic information systems (GIS), teams of researchers are now developing ways to visualize vast amounts of data in predictive ways. Viewing potential impacts of tsunami's, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, or other geologic catastrophes allows development of plans for coastal areas to make them more resilient.

A leading group applying 'big data' science to geography is the Geographic Information Network of Alaska, GINA for short. In association with Oliver Kreylos at the University of California-Davis, a 'digital sandbox' has been created to test impact scenarios by visualizing data in completely new ways. The visualization technology known as augmented reality,or AR, is finding uses in far-flung areas of expertise including medicine, geology, architecture, engineering, the military, and film animation. The uses are only limited by the imagination...and as big data sets become available.

What would you like to learn if you had your own 'digital sandbox'? WHB

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