Sony has Project Morpheus. Valve and HTC have the Vive. And now, Microsoft and the Xbox One have the Oculus Rift. Like it or not, the message is clear: video game publishers are betting big on virtual reality.
Still, judging by fans’ reactions to the Microsoft and Oculus team-up, many players aren’t convinced – and frankly, why should they be? More than almost anything else, virtual reality only works as a hands-on experience. Reading about it, or watching a 2D trailer, just doesn’t cut it. VR is the kind of thing that’s impossible to describe with words, and until the technology becomes mainstream, it’s going to be hard to convince those who are still on the fence to buy in.
Maybe this will help. This morning, USA Today broke the news that Industrial Light & Magic – the visual effects house founded by George Lucas, which created the effects for Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and many others – is creating a new department called ILM’s Experience Lab (or ILMxLab), which create augmented and virtual reality software. The new team’s first project? Why, Star Wars, of course.
The ILMxLab is focusing primarily on the Oculus Rift and iPad devices; USA Today described an augmented reality demo in which players used an iPad as a window into Star Wars’ desert planet Tatooine, where the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 hid from Imperial Stormtroopers. An Oculus Rift demo put users in the cockpit of an X-Wing Starfighter that flew above the scene, allowing players to steer by tilting their heads.
Star Wars is just the beginning, of course; according to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, ILMxLab’s goal is to fuse the company’s technical prowess with its long, storied history of using technology to create powerful, emotional moments. As she says:
It’s the Wild West out there with new frontiers, and we’re all figuring out these new tools. Today, technology is in search of content. But we can bring an emotional experience to that technology…. With image-quality rivaling film, you’ll be able to literally step into an alternate reality.
ILMxLab’s creative director, John Gaeta, agrees. He says, “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.” As USA Today says, ILMxLab’s isn’t focused on making things that players “beat,” as much as stories that they experience; it’s a subtle distinction, but an important one.
In addition to ILMxLab’s upcoming projects, Star Wars fans also have Electronic Arts’ Star Wars: Battlefront revival and Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars to look forward to. All three are expected to arrive this winter, around the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
Source: USA Today