Can 'Star Wars' Ignite Cinematic Virtual Reality?

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In the past few years, I’ve been on the lookout for virtual reality experiences that cross the line into believable experiences. I’ve demo’d Microsoft HoloLens and explored Vive, Oculus, and Samsung Gear.

They all have their place, but none of them took me out of this world, and into another -- except one.

Two years ago, I was one of the first people to demo a new technology platform called The Void at the TED conference in Vancouver.

The Void describes Itself as “hyper-reality": a whole-body, fully immersive VR experience.

I wore a haptic vest that uses sound and vibration to ramp up the sense of realism for explorers. I was transported to an ancient temple. From there, I walked down the stone-lined pathways, solving puzzles to open a door into the next chamber. On the wall, a torch was burning, and a voice in my headset suggested I take it along with me.

<p>Entering The Void</p>

Entering The Void

Steven Rosenbaum / @MagnifyMedia

The plot was carefully choreographed to play out from room to room, with actual walls and stone chairs that drove the sense of reality. The floors shook and the walls felt cold to the touch.

Then a floor dropped away and a lake emerged with a rumble, and a massive serpent rose up and moved in for the kill. Thankfully, I had my torch to keep the serpent at bay.

The Utah-based startup has developed a proprietary head-mounted display, the haptic vest, a tracking system and software called Rapture.

TED's Katherine McCartney said The Void "is pioneering a new form of cinematic virtual reality.”

Because The Void is both digital and physical, it takes your mind places that just images and sound cannot. The images of the waves crashing on the shore are combined with a mist of water -- and that little physical clue takes you there. It’s not fake, it’s real. And it felt to me then as if i’d seen a glimpse into the future.

Last week, the team at The Void announced an amazing next step: their newest hyper-reality experience, "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire." Produced by Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The VOID, the "Star Wars" experience will arrive at Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort this holiday season.

“At The VOID, we combine the magic of illusion, advanced technology and virtual reality to create fully immersive social experiences that take guests to new worlds,” said Curtis Hickman, co-founder and chief creative officer at The VOID. “A truly transformative experience is so much more than what you see with your eyes; it’s what you hear, feel, touch, and even smell.”

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” — Princess Leia Organa

Smell? Yes, the idea is to engage all your senses and turn audience members into active participants. How many of us have imagined having a light saber in our hands, hearing the sound as it cuts through the air, and our hands tingling when our saber connects with a combatant's weapon? I’m SO THERE!

“The Force will be with you. Always.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

The executive in charge of ILMxLab, Vicki Dobbs Beck said, “By combining Lucasfilm’s storytelling expertise with cutting-edge imagery, and immersive sound from the team at Skywalker Sound, while invoking all the senses, we hope to truly transport all those who experience 'Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire 'to a galaxy far, far away.”

For a generation raised on "Star Wars," this is a journey we’ve been waiting for.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

If you want to see what it feels like to be inside The Void, this was my experience at TED:

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