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Disney's Magic Bench lets you hang with a cartoon elephant

Disney Research's mixed-reality Magic Bench brings us one step closer to a real-life version of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

Just a normal day at Disney Research.
Disney Research

Please, have a seat. Just relax and enjoy the company of a cute animated bunny rabbit. You're sitting on the Magic Bench, a creation from Disney Research that brings together mixed reality and augmented reality concepts into an unusual interactive experience. 

The Magic Bench works without requiring participants to wear AR headgear or stare at the world through a phone screen. One (or more) people sit on the bench and look across at a large display that shows a mirror image of them sitting there. Next, an animated elephant, rabbit or other cartoon critter comes along and hangs out with you. A camera and depth sensor helps the system locate multiple people in the space and place the animated characters in the context of the scene. 

"Our mantra for this project was: hear a character coming, see them enter the space, and feel them sit next to you," says Disney Research principal digital artist Moshe Mahler

A demonstration video shows a small, petulant donkey walking in front of a woman sitting on the bench. It comes within reach, looks at her, hops out of reach and then back-kicks the bench before sauntering off. 

The bench system uses haptic feedback to enhance the experience. A snoring cartoon elephant can appear on the screen while the person sitting there feels the bench vibrate in time to the snores.

The animated creations can also hand off digital objects and react when people "touch" them. The demo looks highly entertaining, like you've stepped into the the world of the innovative 1988 live action-cartoon crossover film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The research team will present a demonstration of the bench at the SIGGRAPH 2017 technology conference in Los Angeles later this month. 

Check out the Magic Bench in action:

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