Star Wars Galaxy's Edge lightsabers

In the future, years will be divided into two categories: BD and AD, Before Disney and After Disney. The Walt Disney Company is well on its way to world domination (or at least the domination of all things entertainment), and one of their next big steps toward its stranglehold over those who love popular culture is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the immersive Star Wars-themed land that’s opening in California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Walt Disney World.

The studio is gearing up for specialized lightsaber use in the park – and a new patent indicates that augmented reality is also going to be a factor.

Making Star Wars points us to a series of tweets from Len Testa, the co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney World, in which Testa shared one of Disney’s patent applications, which reveals the company’s plans to build their own lightsabers for sale in the park:

One of the coolest things about visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios is watching young kids walk up to specific areas in the park, produce their magic wands, utter a spell and wave the wand around, and seeing their faces light up as the park reacts to them. It’s all linked electronically, of course, but the kids don’t know that – they truly believe in magic at that point, and this place uses hidden technology to make it real for them. (The reactions are priceless…but those specialized wands will cost parents a pretty penny. They’re still a business, after all.)

With that in mind, it’s not the least bit surprising that Disney is planning something similar with Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge lightsabers. I’d be more shocked if they weren’t developing something like this. But the part about recording the experience and selling you a replay of it? That seems new to me.

Diving into the nitty gritty of the patent details, I found an example of how all of this might work:

By way of illustrative example, a user wearing an AR [augmented reality] HMD [head-mounted display] at a theme park may be presented with an AR experience that is rendered and/or recorded using the HMD. The AR experience may overlay animated characters over the theme park’s environment. For instance, the animated characters may guide the user on a tour. Data associated with the AR experience may be transmitted to a local or remote server that rerenders the AR objects (e.g., images and sounds from animated characters) presented during the AR experience, and creates a high fidelity video recording of this AR experience based on the rerendering. Thereafter, the video of the theme park AR experience may be made available online to the user (e.g., as part of a cloud-based server) or by physical drive (e.g., a flash drive).

So a park guest wearing an AR-enabled helmet could theoretically walk around the park and go on a guided tour of Galaxy’s Edge, giving them an experience that essentially puts them inside an episode of VH1’s Pop-Up Video: you’ll see graphical overlays over certain objects, and likely be able to interact with them with your AR-enabled lightsaber.

Sounds cool, right? It is, but when I noticed some language about how one of the patented devices could collect “physiological sensor data (e.g., user’s heartrate)”, that makes me think we’re getting closer to Westworld than ever before. I don’t know if you’re caught up with this season, but that may not be the best thing for humanity.

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