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Disney Launches Augmented and Mixed Reality Experience in Their Parks

26 July 2017

Disney, the happiest place on earth, is stepping just a little bit more into the future. A combined augmented and mixed reality experience is coming to the parks. This new mixed reality experience doesn’t involve heavy head-mounted display or using a handheld device. The surroundings are instrumented, rather than the individual. This allows people to share the mixed reality experience as a group.

Sit on Disney Research's Magic Bench and you may have an elephant hand you a glowing orb. Or you might get rained on. Or a tiny donkey might saunter by and kick the bench. It's a combined augmented and mixed reality experience, but not the type that involves wearing a head-mounted display or using a handheld device.(Disney Research)Sit on Disney Research's Magic Bench and you may have an elephant hand you a glowing orb. Or you might get rained on. Or a tiny donkey might saunter by and kick the bench. It's a combined augmented and mixed reality experience, but not the type that involves wearing a head-mounted display or using a handheld device.(Disney Research)

The Magic Bench will house the mixed reality experience. People seated on the Magic Beach can see themselves in a mirrored image on a large screen placed in front of them, creating a third person point of view. The scene is reconstructed using a depth sensor, allowing the participants to occupy the same 3-D space as a computer-generated character or object rather than superimposing one video feed onto another.

"This platform creates a multi-sensory immersive experience in which a group can interact directly with an animated character," said Moshe Mahler, a principal digital artist at Disney Research. "Our mantra for this project was: hear a character coming, see them enter the space, and feel them sit next to you."

The research team uses a color camera and depth sensor in order to create a real-time HD-video-textured 3-D reconstruction of the bench, surroundings, and participants. This algorithm reconstructs the scene and aligns the RGB camera information with the depth sensor information.

In order to eliminate the depth shadows that occur in areas where the depth sensor doesn’t have the corresponding line of sight with the color camera, a modified algorithm creates the 2-D backdrop. The 3-D and 2-D reconstructions are positioned in virtual space and populated by 3-D characters and an effect in a way that results in real-time rendering is seamless composite. It is fully capable of interacting with virtual physics, light, and shadows.

"The bench itself plays a critical role," Mahler said. "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. 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."

This research will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2017, the Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference in Los Angeles. For more information on the Magic Bench, visit the Disney site here.

To contact the author of this article, email Siobhan.Treacy@ieeeglobalspec.com


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