The big challenge with mixed reality is immersion – having the user feel as if the digital elements introduced by the computer are actually part of the real world.
Disney’s research arm has unveiled a novel way to achieve that goal using simply a screen, a Microsoft Kinect depth-sensing sensor, some clever computing algorithms and a very magic bench.
When users enter the room, they see what appears to be a normal bench facing a normal mirror, but when they sit down the magic happens. Virtual creatures appear reflected in the mirror which the user can interact with, hear with spacial sound or even feel, thanks to various haptic elements in the bench and room.
The technique has several advantages, not least that the user does not need a headset, but also that little to no setup is required, multiple users can experience the illusion at once, and that the environment is controlled and actions restrained by the setup.
“We want technology to be as seamless as possible,” says Moshe Mahler, principal digital artist at Disney Research. “We don’t want to instrument the user with hardware.”
“The bench allows us to constrain space,” says Mahler. “People typically want to touch the CG characters. Of course, they aren’t really there, so they can’t ‘feel’ the characters directly. We play on these expectations.”
See Disney talk about the work below:
Unfortunately, it is not known if the technology will turn into a real Disney attraction, but given the simplicity of the implementation, it seems ripe for rolling out in the real world.