A Sandbox

Sandboxes are wooden boxes of interactive digital sand, for play and reverie. They may be enjoyed as an individual or a shared networked experience.


Sandbox sand dispersing under the touch of a finger

Sandboxes contain digital sand that shifts as if blown by a gentle breeze, accumulating into drifts that that evolve over time, forming virtually endless patterns. Its intricate motion and luminous color are designed to fascinate. You may play with the sand with your finger: it disperses softly beneath your touch. Meanwhile it ceaselessly continues its evolution. Tactile interaction makes the experience more personal. Yet grooming a Sandbox requires little attention. It may captivate; it may tickle the subconscious; it may liberate contemplation.

The Sandbox Network connects Sandboxes worldwide

Sandboxes may be connected to the Sandbox Network. Once connected, your touch extends into a network of Sandboxes worldwide, where anyone else's touch extends into your own. Surprise and play become part of the experience.

Sandboxes are designed with the goal of being accessible to all, everywhere. They are simple, direct, and rewarding, regardless as to culture, age, and technical background. They require no formal language. They seek a universal metaphor.

Their simplicity yields to apersonal approach to shape the experience. Cultural context, physical environs, and social circumstances contribute to the interplay. Encounters will vary undertaken in private or in public, and within the virtual public of the Sandbox Network.

Sandboxes are art. Sandboxes are experiments in experience design.


A Sandbox encountered in an installation setting, projected

Sandboxes are versatilely suited for a variety of settings: public spaces, galleries, class rooms, private residences, and elsewhere. They may rest face up to complement the sandbox metaphor or they many hang vertically to facilitate their display. Ideally, they rest on a short podium while the evolving sand is projected onto a vertical plane close beyond, and with other Sandboxes out of sight or in different contexts far removed.

Each Sandbox requires power and a medium-speed connection to the Internet. They have been exhibited successfully for months without flaw.

Design and Construction

Design of a Sandbox inner frame and LCD

Sandboxes are driven by custom software written in Java. They display on an open frame LCD with an integrated capacitive touch screen. They connect to the Sandbox Server via the Internet. It manages the Sandbox Network.

Sandbox form factors are finely crafted and pleasing to touch. There are currently five, built of wood and natural varnishes. An inner frame braces the LCD. An exterior enclosure contains it. The face of the enclosure is cut to reveal the screen in strategic locations for application-specific display and touch interaction.

An assembled sandbox (rear)

The inner frame may be removed and interchangeably inserted into any of the other enclosures. They mate with brass thumb screws in a standardized pattern. The frames and LCDs may be repurposed inside alternate enclosures with faces cut to reveal access appropriate for other applications. More are planned.

Sandboxes are rugged and designed for travel. The open frame LCDs are industrial grade. The enclosures and frames are constructed of American oak and laminated oak veneer plywood, amply soaked in varnish equally inside and out. Tongue and groove construction and metal brackets strengthen the enclosure. They resist expansion and contraction in humid and arid conditions. One fits in a standard suitcase, generously padded.

To date the computing environment has been supplied by a laptop, Mac Mini, or PC hidden inside the exhibition podium or behind the exhibition wall.

Next Steps

A Raspberry Pi 3: the embedded computer for the next iteration

The next generation of Sandboxes will replace the peripheral computer with an embedded Raspberry Pi, for an integrated form factor. Future plans include creating custom enclosures for other projects, such as the Gesture Painter and Sound Canvases.