June 17, 2015
Industrial Light & Magic has created a new division with a focus on developing virtual reality and augmented reality experiences for movie fans. ILMxLAB is planning to debut an entertainment experience based on “Star Wars” later this year. It has been working on technology for the iPad and Oculus Rift that would allow consumers to enter their favorite movie scenes and navigate through them. ILMxLAB execs indicate that the technology could launch when the J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is released in mid-December.
“ILM’s Experience Lab, or ILMxLAB, will combine the technical assets of ILM, Skywalker Sound and Lucasfilm to create immersive experiences that allow fans to participate in their favorite movie worlds,” reports USA Today. “Although video games pegged to movies have promised a similar experience, this new tech will be different: non-competitive and using photo-realism rather than animation.”
“What we’re aiming for is to open the two-dimensional world of the movies and allow fans to walk into those worlds with the same visual fidelity,” explained John Gaeta, ILMxLAB’s creative director. “All that George [Lucas] begat caused a reassessment of innovation from movies to video games. The next 40 years of ILM is about exploding that universe with tech once again. xLAB is as attuned to Silicon Valley as it is to Hollywood.”
ILM’s new efforts come at a time when the special effects industry faces increasing competition from companies in Europe and Asia.
Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2013 for $3 billion, so we may eventually see some of the VR and AR technologies developed by ILMxLAB used for Disney’s marketing and theme park attractions.
“Apple, Google, Intel, they all have moonshot projects around AR and VR, but they’re still just figuring it out,” Gaeta said. “Our standards for world-building are very high, and we intend to use our technology to give people experiences that they haven’t yet dreamed of.”