VirtualReality has, in reality, been a mixed bag: while there have been amazing experiences created by virtual headsets like the Oculus Rift, the limitations of being tethered to small phone screens and headsets meant for a long time that a complete illusion would be impossible.

Our dreams of absolute virtual illusion seemed to be that - just dreams. But now, Disney Research hopes to change that with their newest invention: the MagicBench.

How does it work?

The Magic Bench is able to reproduce your image as well as any virtual characters in 3D by using a camera and a depth sensor, much like Microsoft's own motion-sensor device, the Kinect.

Across from the bench is a mirrored projection of the room that allows those using the Disney Research's device to see themselves as well as the virtual characters.

The Magic Bench can detect how many people are seated on it and which way they are facing, allowing the digital characters to interact with people as if the characters were actually real. The combined use of a 2D backdrop and the 3D characters allow for real-time interactions between users and the virtual characters.

In addition, the Magic Bench feature actuators hidden underneath the bench to add vibrations. This adds to the illusion by allowing the digital characters to plunk down on the bench with what feels like real wight.

How does Disney plan on using the Magic Bench?

The immediate intention is clear: the Magic Bench would serve as the perfect addition to Disney's theme parks around the globe. Virtual reality has already become major attractions at many of Disney's parks, such as the popular Haunted Mansion ride with its magic mirrors. Moshe Mayor, a principal digital artist at Disney Research, said this of their creation:

“Our mantra for this project was: hear a character coming, see them enter the space, and feel them sit next to you."

Visitors to Disney's parks -- both young and old -- would leap at the chance to be able to interact with their favorite characters as if they were actually there thanks to augmented reality.

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However, there are also more applications for the Magic Bench outside of just Disney's theme parks that we could see in the future. From project presentations to an in-home Magic Bench, the possibilities are endless.

When can I find out more about the Magic Bench?

The researchers behind the Magic Bench will be presenting their project at the Siggraph 2017 conference in L.A. The conference begins on Sunday, July 20th at the L.A. Convention Center through Thursday, August 3rd.