Manda Maggs

Manda Maggs, Penticton BC

My reality is augmented enough, thanks.

I am very excited to be working on a project for the Penticton Museum's improved Kid's Laboratory and decided to share some of the process here. First though, I'll have to explain what it is. I'm building an "Augmented Reality Sandbox". The whole idea for us to have it as part of the Museum's lab is to use it as a tool to explain the formation of the Okanagan Valley in an interactive, engaging way. You may have seen a videos of this floating around on social media, like the one below:

This is not the kind of toy you can just go out and buy - you have to make it from scratch including hacking an Xbox 3D camera (Kinect sensor) and setting up the computer and software. The software, thankfully, is all open source, including the operating system. My budget goal was to keep it under $1500. 

It turns out, there's some very specific things you will need: 

  1. A laptop or computer set up with Linux Mint
  2. A first-generation X-Box Kinect sensor
  3. A sandbox (width vs length ratio of 3:4)
  4. A projector

I set out to find what I could, luckily our IT department had decommissioned a bunch of older laptops (dinosaurs, but functional!), so that was lucky and cost me $0. I picked up a first-gen Xbox Kinect sensor [model 1414] for $125 from posting a social media classified and, and ordered an LED projector from Staples, $850. So far our budget looks good! Luckily we also have a very excellent exhibit builder, Darryl, who was able to draw up plans for building the sandbox component. Materials cost approximately $150, and we're all set to go. 

I'm not at all familiar with any OS besides Windows or Mac, so installing the Linux software was new for me. Luckily there are very detailed instructions included with all of the open-source software. There's also a video for people like me who need a visual. If you follow the instructions step by step, you should be fine. My problem was that the laptop I was using was not capable of accessing wifi, so installing the updates and downloading the software was a challenge until I could find an ethernet cable I could plug into. There were minor wrinkles that needed to be ironed out, if you have some basic computer skills you should have no problem. 

Well, that's enough for now. I'll post some pictures of our progress tomorrow and hopefully everything goes as planned...(famous last words...)