North Korea Debuts ‘New’ AR Education Tool

It seems the DPRK is stepping into augmented reality ed tech—but is their latest contraption a copy?

North Korea has unveiled a “new intelligent playground equipment for children” that seems to be an AR sandbox, according to a video out last week from the state-run TV news broadcaster, NK News reports. For instance, the box lets you create projections of volcanoes or lakes by digging up sand.

“It is an entertainment equipment that enables a player to understand nature by showing a picture realistically followed by the player’s hand gesture,” said a DPRK Today anchor, according to NK News—an independent journalism outlet covering North Korea.

The system, called “Sand Play,” appears to have a sandbox, touch screen, projector and motion and depth sensors that simulate natural phenomenon. NK News reports it contains 11 programs, including a “map of Korea, insect collection, volcanic eruption, finding photos, finding minerals, digging out clams, observing nature, catching sparrows.”

From DPRK Today:

“Children can efficiently acquire knowledge of natural geographical characteristics of our our country – which is surrounded by water on three sides – within a short time by digging the sand in the shape of the Korean map.

… As you play the game of water flow, [the player] can intuitively see and understand the principle that water flows from a high to low place through the process of digging sand.”

These sandboxes could provide the nation’s children with a rare opportunity to access computer technology. Only around 3 of its 25 million citizens own mobile devices today, The Economist reports. And as few as 20,000 might have access to the internet, ABC News reported in 2014.

North Korea also showed an interest in virtual reality last year when they announced a new “Virtual Reality Science Lab.”

But North Korea isn’t the first to debut AR sandboxes for learning. UC Davis demonstrated five years ago how the technology could enhance geology education. Other companies, such as iSandBOX and South Korea’s Cellbig, are selling basically the same devices for entertainment and education.

And in an interview with NK News, Cellbig, which sells their AR sandboxes for nearly $1,200 each, accused their neighbor of stealing their tech. Cellbig director Jung Byong-gyun claims North Korea’s “Sand Play” piggybacked off their 2015 game “Sandcraft.”

“Because there are certain resemblances in terms of graphic style, the motion of icons, font, and presentment,” Byong-gyun told NK News.

You can watch the video from DPRK Today below and decide for yourself.

Image Credit: DPRK Today / NK News

About the Scout

Dieter Holger

Dieter is a technology journalist reporting for VRScout out of London. Send tips to and follow him on Twitter @dieterholger.

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