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December 07, 2011


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Silly question: What do you do to ensure that the sand permanently conforms to the topography you wish to model in a stable manner? How do you deal with steep slopes? Is a cementing agent used?

What an incredibly nifty way to update sand tables!

Silly answer: I have no idea!

My impression from watching the movies is that no cement is used, and that sand's angle of repose capacity is employed. But I assume that modelling the Grand (or any other, for that matter) Canyon might be something of a challenge....

I am the inventor and owner of Simtable. Thanks for writing about us!!

@F and @sandglass, we can project on almost any surface and make it interactive. We use sand for terrain that people want to re-sculpt quickly. And its the lowest cost solution for many people.

If people want steeper sides (greater angle of repose) than coarse sand can provide we have used clay and a kids play product called 'moon sand' which has a bonding agent and doesn't dry out even in arid climates. http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?Product=25575&rec=PDHtop. This would work well for something like the grand canyon.

For highly accurate requirements, we have also projected onto 3D printed landscapes and urban models. Our friends at solid terrain modeling (http://www.solidterrainmodeling.com/ can do great landscape printing at almost any size. We can then project on these and make them interactive.

Yes, our team is very interested in many types of GIS-Based models that are topographically driven. Beyond wildfire, these include flooding, contaminant plumes, ecological models, sub-surface geological models where users can peel away some of the earth.

We are currently working a mobile app platform that drives the projection and hope to have something released in the spring 2012.

Stephen - thanks much for adding so much information to this post - it's hugely helpful to hear from the guy whose great idea this actually is! The idea of using "moon sand" is brilliant.

It seems to me that the list of potential uses is almost endless - as a geologist, I can visualise all kinds of educational applications.

Thanks again for the comment


Micheal, thanks for alerting me to this post, very interesting. A colleague recently sent me this link; researchers are using the Xbox Kinetic in fashion similar to Simtable (I think, too busy now to read both, but filed for future research).

Sorry all, forgot link: Xbox Kinect: http://www.gizmag.com/turning-a-sandbox-into-an-ecosystem-with-the-xbox-kinect/20700/

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