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Disney Unveils Mixed Reality Magic Bench

Depth sensors, haptics and motion sensors combine for 'Walk up and play' Mixed Reality experience.

Disney has historically had a great interest in new visual entertainment technologies. The House of Mouse has been involved in virtual reality (VR) technologies since the 90s, at one point having an immersive arcade at one of its parks promoting VR and AR technologies. In more modern times, Disney has been involved in research and development of VR technology, and has just unveiled one of its breakthroughs – the mixed reality (MR) Magic Bench.

It’s one of the fantasies of any of the Disney theme parks that children can ‘meet’ the characters from their favourite Disney movies. Instead of actors in costumes, though, Disney now have another option. The Magic Bench allows users to sit down on a bench and see and hear a character sat next to them. In one of the current versions of the Magic Bench, one of the animated characters hands the user an orb. Using Haptics, the user can feel the other character move around on the bench, or, in one encounter, feel an animated donkey kick the side of the bench.

The aim of the project by Disney Research was to create a mixed reality experience that didn’t require any additional equipment or set-up time, a ‘walk up and play’ experience. “This demonstrates [human-computer interaction] in its simplest form: a person walks up to a computer, and the computer hands the person an object,” the researchers write in their paper describing the Magic Bench. “Our mantra for this project was: hear a character coming, see them enter the space, and feel them sit next to you,” added Moshe Mahler, principal digital artist at Disney Research.

It’s not difficult to imagine this sort of technology being implemented at any of Disney’s theme parks, giving customers the chance to really interact with famous animated characters from Disney’s catalogue.

A video demonstration of the Magic Bench technology is available to view below.

VRFocus will bring you further information on Disney’s Magic Bench as it becomes available.

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