Disney Research released a video today showcasing some of the impressive advancements that they’ve made with augmented reality and overcoming some of the challenges that make its use mostly burdensome due to several limitations.

It really awakens the imagination to envision all the different ways in which Disney may be planning to use the technology in future theme park uses including the new Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars themed land coming to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts or even into yet-unannounced adventures.

In this new video, Disney Research showcases a Magic Bench that overcomes several of the practical limitations of regular augmented reality uses. For instance, rather than wearing a headset you need only look at a monitor in front of you. You still have a clear distinction between your real environment and the augmented one but there’s several impressive enhancements here that help take the believability of the tech to new levels.

Feel the Magic

One of the smart additions to the Magic Bench is haptic feedback that’s created from characters that interact in the environment thanks to actuators hidden under the bench. So when a character jumps on the bench you can feel the thud of its weight. In the example they showed, an elephant falls asleep and snores loudly. The reverberation of his snoring causes a gentle rumble on the bench that can be felt.

Spatial Feelings

Another great advantage here — to vastly oversimplify — is the ability for the environment to detect WHERE you are and allow the characters in the space to react appropriately to your presence. At one point in the video, you can see the user on the bench wave his hand over a bunny and a shadow correctly appears over the rabbit as his hand passes over. In another instance, you can see a girl reach over to touch a frog and he reacts by asking her to keep to her own personal space.


Furthering the wow-factor here even more is the ability for users to interact with these characters in more meaningful ways. For instance, we can see an elephant hand a golden orb to the user. Once their hands connect, the object is automatically transferred to the user who can now wave and otherwise control the orb in his hand. You might consider a Jedi throwing someone a lightsaber and that user being able to wield the blade for protection — as an example, of course. You can see a similar example of this from this past Comic-Con in which users were able to sword fight with Captain Hook!

Another really fun interaction between characters is the idea that you could have an instance of a character that can affect other 4D experiences in your real environment. For instance, should it start raining in the room — you know Disney loves sprinkling water — you could get under the umbrella of the virtual character and stay dry. Since the environment knows where you are and can detect where the character is at, it could in theory trigger rain to NOT fall onto the area where the character’s umbrella would be located. So you would literally be able to affect your real world experience by interacting with the digital one.


Augmented reality is still in its very earliest infancy stages but 4D tricks like these and continued advancements in technology will continue help create a more believable experiences to enhance stories and attractions.

What other ways can you imagine these augmented reality advances in the parks? We’d love to know your thoughts so please share them in the comments below!