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"Magic Bench" or Front Porch: Can our kids possibly shift even further from human to virtu

How much further can technology take our children from actually enjoying human conversation into living in--and being saturated with--a virtual world?

The answer is: "much further."

Disney's new “magic bench” encourages kids to sit on a literal bench in the child's house with favorite virtual cartoon characters.

So much for the front porch--at least in Disney World.

Interestingly, in Mississippi, good old-fashioned “visiting” is once again being touted at a great way to rebuild community.

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

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

Says Mahler, ”This platform creates a multi-sensory immersive experience in which a group can interact directly with an animated character.”

In Mississippi, a significant new conference touts the real thing--talking on an old-fashioned porch.

Founder Campbell McCool and a host of public intellectuals say we and our children are losing the art of conversation and human interaction that once thrived each evening in Mississippi on our front porches. The second annual Conference on the Front Porch was held October 18th and 19 at Plein Air in Taylor just outside Oxford.

"A front porch is not just lumber," McCool says. "It's a way of life."

Perhaps both options can exist together. (We really don't have an option, do we?) But here's hoping that the real thing prevails in Mississippi with its children--and adults.

The Disney research team demonstrated the bench at Los Angeles conference in late July.

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