There are few franchises better suited to helping a nascent medium get off the ground than Star Wars.
So the news, announced today, that there will be Star Wars-themed installations of the location-based virtual reality experience The Void outside Disneyland and Disney World couldn’t have been better news for the young company.
Starting this holiday season, visitors will have the chance to immerse themselves in Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a social, multi-sensory, untethered “hyper-reality” experience designed in a collaboration between The Void, Lucasfilm, and ILMxLab, and featuring audio from Skywalker Sound.
The Void is one of a number of new location-based VR companies. Their approach is to build experience centers around entertainment and commerce hubs, like malls, movie theaters, and amusement parks. Visitors strap on a set of self-contained VR gear and walk through a physical space that can be as big as a small warehouse. Players collaborate on a mission of some sort, such as defeating ghosts in The Void’s Ghostbusters: Dimension installation in New York City.
Some analysts believe that businesses like The Void or Nomadic can help revitalize the struggling retail and cinema industries by bringing in more foot traffic and giving people something to do with friends and family away from the home.
It’s notable that The Void is launching a Star Wars property, but shouldn’t come as a major surprise to observers of ILMxLab’s work in VR. First launched in 2015, the immersive entertainment division of Lucasfilm subsequently produced Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine, a short VR project for the HTC Vive that brings users into the middle of a scene that takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi. Players take “the role of an aspiring Padawan hoping to join Luke Skywalker in his effort to rebuild the Jedi Order,” according to Wookieepedia.
ILMxLab has also announced plans to work on Star Wars projects with the highly anticipated mixed-reality company Magic Leap, and has hinted at a larger Star Wars VR project that could be released in a few years.
For its part, the Star Wars project is a big step forward for The Void, as well as a major vote of confidence, which became part of Disney’s accelerator program this year.
Will it be a success? It’s hard to say, as it’s unknown what the new experience will cost, nor how it will be received by those who go through it. Location-based VR can be surprisingly persuasive in terms of inspiring people to suspend all their disbelief as they physically walk into unknown environments. The proof, of course, is in the pudding. But it’s hard to imagine people won’t be interested in becoming a participant in a high-quality, immersive Star Wars story.
“At ILMxLab, we want people to step inside the world of our stories,” lab head Vicki Dobbs Beck said in a release. “Through our collaboration with The Void, we can make this happen as guests become active participants in an unfolding Star Wars adventure….We hope to truly transport [visitors] to a galaxy far, far away.”