From virtual movie sets to fans engaging in lightsaber battles.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
July 17, 2017

The visual effects whizzes behind Star Wars are using virtual reality and augmented reality to make the film jump off the screen.

John Knoll, chief creative officer and senior visual effects supervisor of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), described how his team created virtual sets for last year’s blockbuster movie Rogue One‘s that let director Gareth Edwards virtually map out certain shots and sets. He was also able to moving inside some of Rogue One‘s digital scenes to determine the best camera angles.

Knoll described the ILM’s work while onstage Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. In addition to putting the next wave of visual technology to work on the big screen, Disney and Lucasfilm, the division that produces Star Wars, are also hard at work developing virtual reality and augmented reality products that can let the film’s fans feel like they’re inside the world of the movies, even if they’re at home (or, maybe, at a Disney theme park).

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Vicki Dobbs Beck, the executive in charge at ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s new laboratory for immersive entertainment, said, “Our ultimate goal is to deliver really compelling, immersive stories.” Last year, ILMxLAB introduced the Star Wars virtual reality experience Trials on Tatooine, which lets fans wield their own lightsaber, and announced a VR project featuring Darth Vader.

When it comes to Star Wars and Disney’s theme parks, though, Disney CEO Bob Iger has made it clear that he sees a bright future for augmented reality, which uses a headset to superimpose computer-generated images onto a real-world view. Over the weekend, at Disney’s D23 fan event in Anaheim, Calif., the company announced plans to partner with Lucasfilm and Lenovo on a smartphone-based augmented reality headset that would layer Star Wars experiences such as lightsaber battles and games onto the real world.

Meanwhile, Disney also announced plans to open an immersive, Star Wars-themed hotel and resort, where guests would be able to live out unique storylines. Asked about the resort and its potential applications for immersive storytelling, Beck said: “Once you step through those doors, you’re in Star Wars. I would assume that mixed reality would play a role in that.”

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