Have you ever wanted to sit and drift through a magical world? Disney Research has developed a ‘Magic Bench’ platform that actualises this dream by combining augmented (AR) and mixed reality experience. In this platform, wearing a head-mounted display or using a handheld device is not required. Instead, the surroundings are instrumented rather than the individual, allowing people to share the magical experience as a group. “This platform creates a multi-sensory immersive experience in which a group can interact directly with an animated character. Our mantra for this project was: Hear a character coming, see them enter the space, and feel them sit next to you,” said Moshe Mahler, Principal Digital Artist at Disney Research.
The ‘Magic Bench’ shows people their mirrored images on a large screen in front of them, creating a third person point of view. “The scene is reconstructed using a depth sensor, allowing the participants to actually occupy the same 3D space as a computer-generated character or object, rather than superimposing one video feed onto another,” the researchers said in a paper that will be presented at ‘SIGGRAPH 2017’ event in Los Angeles on July 30. According to the researchers, a colour camera and depth sensor were used to create a real-time, HD-video-textured 3D reconstruction of the bench, surroundings and participants.
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“The bench itself plays a critical role. Not only does it contain haptic actuators, but it constrains several issues for us in an elegant way. We know the location and the number of participants, and can infer their gaze. It creates a stage with a foreground and a background, with the seated participants in the middle ground,” Mahler explained. “It even serves as a controller; the mixed reality experience doesn’t begin until someone sits down and different formations of people seated create different types of experiences,” he added.