SWCC 2019: 5 Things We Learned at the ILMxLAB Panel

StarWars.com

You’ve already seen the first breathtaking trailer for Vader Immortal, a virtual reality experience coming later this year, which made its debut at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. But did you know that Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment studio ILMxLAB has been developing and experimenting with virtual and mixed reality for years? At Celebration, the team assembled a fascinating panel that offered behind-the-scenes glimpses into the projects we’ve seen from ILMxLAB, along with teases of what we might find in the dark halls of Vader’s Castle on Mustafar.

Moderator Bryan Bishop of ILMxLAB was joined by Director of Experience Development Mohen Leo, Production Coordinator Sarah Barrick, Senior Manager of Talent and Production Julie Peng, Senior Experience Designer Jose Perez III, and Executive Creative Producer Mark Miller to give the packed room a peek behind the curtains of ILMxLAB. Here are five things we learned.

1.There’s a huge difference between mixed reality and virtual reality. “People often lump virtual reality and mixed reality or augmented reality into one,” said Mohen Leo, “and they’re almost completely the opposite. Virtual reality is really about transporting you somewhere different, taking over your whole world, basically… [mixed reality] brings fictional elements in the real world. And fictional elements can be part of your everyday life when you’re going shopping or sitting on the bus. So how do we make Star Wars part of the real world?”

An image from Vader Immortal.

2. While recording lines for Vader Immortal, Maya Rudolph would improvise new ones. Rudolph plays the droid sidekick ZOE3, and delighted ILMxLAB when she would go off-script in character. “She is hilarious,” said Sarah Barrick. “She got into the character so quickly… She practically writes the character herself. She’ll go through and just rapid-fire stuff that we didn’t even think of. She just gives us so much to work with, it really makes ZOE3.”

An image from Vader Immortal.

3. Pablo Hidalgo voices the training droid in the Lightsaber Dojo. “For those of us that work with [the Lucasfilm Story Group],” said Mark Miller, “it was sort of normal because we’d say, ‘We want to do this,’ and he’d say, ‘No, you can’t do that in Star Wars.’” Leo agreed and praised Hidalgo’s deadpan performance.

4. ILMxLAB worked with other Star Wars masterminds at Lucasfilm as the team designed Vader’s castle and the secrets it hides. Vader Immortal is Star Wars canon and closely connects to one of ILMxLAB’s previous Star Wars VR titles, Secrets of the Empire. And that’s not the only connection. The team chatted with Lucasfilm Vice President and Executive Creator Designer Doug Chiang and his group for the Rogue One castle design, said Miller. “It was cool starting there and going up from there,” he said. “We got a lot of inspiration for things that you’ll learn about what’s in that castle, and why that castle was built on that spot, that you’ll only learn in the three episodes of Vader Immortal.”

5. Your pet porg in Project Porg can play with a stuffed Chewbacca doll, chase a laser pointer, and more. Julie Peng recalled losing hours by simply playing with the laser pointer with her porg. Chewbacca and Threepio have entrusted you with the cute critters, and it’s up to you to keep them entertained. Anthony Daniels even returns as C-3PO to guide you through your new life with your porg companion. “It really moves the bar up from something where you’re just interacting with characters to where there’s a little story that’s very fun,” said Miller.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

SWCC 2019: 5 Things We Learned at the ILMxLAB Panel

SWCC 2019: 7 Things We Learned from the Vader Immortal Panel

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Darth Vader has chosen you.

When ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series debuts on Oculus Quest headsets this spring, fans will get the chance to sneak through the halls of Vader’s castle on Mustafar and even meet some of the native aliens that inhabit the treacherous lava planet.

On Friday, David S. Goyer, writer and executive producer, was joined by Ben Snow, director, Mohen Leo, narrative designer, Lucasfilm Story Group Creative Executive Matt Martin, and Colum Slevin, Head of Media, AR/VR Experiences Group at Oculus,”, to give fans at Star Wars Celebration Chicago a first look at a new trailer for the experience and insights into the creation and story we’ll soon get to experience. Here are seven things we learned at the panel, hosted by Amy Ratcliffe.

An image from Vader Immortal.

1. Maya Rudolph is about to be your best friend. The actor and comedian stars as ZOE3, the latest in a long tradition of witty droid co-pilots and partners. In fact, the role was created with Rudolph in mind. “She kind of provides the heart and the comic relief of the piece,” said Goyer. “We screwed up a bunch of takes because we were laughing.”

An image from Vader Immortal.

2. Actors from Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance have also joined the cast. Steve Blum, who played Zeb, the Lasat muscle on the Ghost crew in Star Wars Rebels, is back to voice a new character in the experience — Admiral Karius. And Scott Lawrence, who plays the tough but fair leader of Team Fireball, Jarek Yeager, on Star Wars Resistance, stars as Darth Vader himself.

3. The story connects to another ILMxLAB experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. If you’ve already smelled Mustafar for yourself and felt the heat of the planet on your skin while exploring the terrain in the previous immersive experience from ILMxLAB and The Void, you will be pleased to see that some things you saw and learned there also link up to the new Vader Immortal story. Martin revealed that the events in Secrets transpire just a few days before Vader Immortal takes place. And that mysterious object players were seeking has a direct connection to your mission now.

The story also ties into other films and comics, including Rogue One.

4. But this isn’t like watching a film. “[Vader Immortal] is essentially a new form of storytelling,” Slevin said. You have a role to play and the untethered headset of the home-based VR platform will allow players to move around more freely.

An image from Vader Immortal.

An image from Vader Immortal.

5. You’ll get to interact with Mustafarians! Although we’ve glimpsed these aliens before, exploring their culture is new to Star Wars, “which is always exciting,” said Martin.

6. You’ll be let in on some of Vader’s secrets. “On one hand it’s an Imperial base, but it is also very much Vader’s home,” Leo said. In the game, you play a smuggler who gets taken in by Imperial Forces and taken to Vader’s castle for a very important mission. “The story is about why Vader has chosen you,” Goyer said. It also explores the man behind the mask. “There’s a mournfulness, a sadness beneath the helmet,” he added, and players will get to see that side of the Dark Lord in an intimate and surprisingly emotional way, the creators promise.

And when you get done playing, you may just want to re-read the final arc of the recent Marvel Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith comic. “There are some pretty cool, subtle hints to this story” inside the pages, Martin says.

An image from Vader Immortal.

7. Episode I is all about lightsabers, but Episode II is focused on Force abilities. The experience includes training at a Lightsaber Dojo. “There’s something really gratifying about deflecting blaster bolts back,” Martin said.

“It’s shocking how quickly you build up a sweat,” Goyer added.

Fans attending the panel also got to take home an exclusive new poster – check it out below!

A poster from Vader Immortal.

And everyone at Star Wars Celebration can stop by the Oculus booth (#4823) inside the exhibition hall this weekend to experience a demo of the game.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Site tags: #SWCCPanel, #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

SWCC 2019: 7 Things We Learned from the Vader Immortal Panel

Get a First Look at ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal at Star Wars Celebration

StarWars.com

Next month, you can get your first glimpse at Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, the new ILMxLAB virtual reality experience, when Star Wars Celebration hits Chicago.

Core members of the creative team behind the project that was announced last year will gather for a panel on the main stage on Friday, April 12, at 1:30 p.m. Attendees will learn new, key details about the first episode, written by David S. Goyer, an award-winning executive producer and writer.

Following the panel, ILMxLAB and Oculus will open a booth on the show floor, bringing fans an exclusive, interactive preview of Vader Immortal – Episode I, which will run throughout the remainder of Celebration.

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series promises to transport you to Mustafar, and with lightsaber in hand, puts you at the center of an original Star Wars story, a canonical immersive adventure set between the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope.

The first episode of Vader Immortal debuts later this year on Oculus Quest headsets.

Stay tuned to StarWars.com for more Star Wars Celebration Chicago updates!

Star Wars Celebration Chicago will take place April 11-15 at McCormick Place. Visit StarWarsCelebration.com for tickets and more information!

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https://www.starwars.com/news/ilmxlab-vader-immortal-panel-star-wars-celebration

Hatching ILMxLAB’s Star Wars: Project Porg

StarWars.com

Before they could transport a trio of curious, wide-eyed porgs into your living room, the designers at ILMxLAB were having some very in-depth conversations about finding the perfect “toe spread” on a migrating space puffin.

The stars of the new mixed-reality experience Star Wars: Project Porg have the weight of a real bird-like creature, and the perfect doe eyes for pleading for food that also looked entirely realistic. “Getting their eyes right is just so difficult,” says Michael Koperwas, ILMxLAB’s mixed reality supervisor. “Getting enough specular highlight that they feel like they’re there, getting everything to feel like they’re really in the world with you, that the shadows are as good as they can possibly get, they feel grounded, they feel there.”

The porgs’ movements, from flying and landing to cocking their head to one side in mimicry, had to be precise. Designers even created an entire porg language, a catalog of squeaks and sqawks that, for the discerning user or practiced “porg whisperer,” can audibly cue their specific needs in the moment, says Alex Elsayad, the senior technical designer for Magic Leap, which partnered on the project. “There’s an entire language there. They can actually request specific toys if you pay enough attention and spend enough time with them.”

The final version, essentially the next step in virtual pets, is ILMxLAB’s latest experience and first public experiment in mixed-reality storytelling, a new avenue that aims to ground virtual creations in real surroundings. Available today exclusively on the Magic Leap One, an untethered headset, the project differs from previous ventures that transported fans to a droid repair bay through virtual reality or touched down on Mustafar with all the sights and smells in Secrets of the Empire. In traditional virtual reality, “You’re shutting out the rest of the world,” Koperwas says. “Once you aren’t doing that, once you start putting on this device that you can wear it and go about your regular tasks, it occupies a very different space of entertainment. We’re very interested and keen to find out where some of those things can work….The ability to interact with other people together through this experience, these are all super exciting parts that we want to start to play at.”

Concept art from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

Concept art shows three different proposed designs for a small Wookiee doll.

A screen from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

Direct from Ahch-To

Slip on the Magic Leap One headset and spatial scanning software creates a grid-like map of the space around you before the porgs touch down in a specially-designed device complete with a holographic C-3PO providing very polite on-screen instructions. With a hand controller, you can feed the porgs nutrient-rich cubes, play with a twine ball crafted by Chewbacca himself, or even maneuver a laser-pointer to send the porgs hustling and chirping around the room. Pick up a porg and place it on a table or even your friend’s head. And, if you happen to drop one of the bird-like creatures, the tiny porg will flap gently and gracefully back down to the nearest surface.

The longer you play, the more in tune you and the creatures become, with each other and the surroundings. Plant a blade of grass on your living room carpet and when you return days later you will see it sprout into an entire patch of grass on the same spot. Interact with the porgs enough and they’ll begin to mimic the way you tilt your head, imprinting upon their new caregiver over time. “A lot of work has gone into making sure the porgs were aware of each other at all times and then through various APIs (application programming interface), they can always be aware of not only where a user is but where they’re looking,” says Elsayad. “It’s a very powerful tool to be able to understand where people’s attention is because you can read a lot about their intention. On the technical side, we had a small touch of content persistence. There is actual grass that you can plant. For that grass to be at the same location the next day, as long as it recognizes the space, a single blade turns into a full patch that the porgs can then enjoy.”

‘Really cute and mischievous’

The porg storyline is nearly four years in the making. That’s when the collaboration between Magic Leap and ILMxLAB began, and the creators started running experiments to explore “how to best express this new medium,” Elsayad says. “We’ve been trying to figure out what would be the best fit for a long time. And for the past year we’ve been focused on this vignette.”

“We’ve tried a surprisingly large variety of different things, characters, cinematic tie-ins and scale,” adds Koperwas. “Some worked for various reasons and really didn’t work for others.

A porg from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

A variety of porgs from project Porg.
A variety of porgs from project Porg.
A variety of porgs from project Porg.
A variety of porgs from project Porg.

If you want to do something huge, you can do it, but you need a really big space and not everyone has that. If you want to do something human-sized, it doesn’t come across as well to everybody. Really small things almost instantly give you this intimate feeling.” That made the porgs the perfect creature to focus on. “They’re things you want to take care of, things you’re not afraid to approach. (Porgs) can have a mind of their own, they can have their own opinions and desires. You can project a lot of emotion onto them and they’re just, they’re just really cute and mischievous.”

“For Magic Leap, one of the important things was to explore, ‘What does it mean to have meaningful character interaction in mixed reality?’” adds Elsayad. “There is something very emotionally and viscerally satisfying about having a character that pays attention to you in your own space in a way that I don’t think any other medium really comes close to.”

‘Surprises’

To begin building the experience, the designers had to anticipate how people would interact with the tiny Ahch-To natives.

“You literally have to put it in front of as many eyes as possible,” says Elsayad. “There’s always going to be somebody who surprises you. Any one perspective is never enough. I remember someone at Magic Leap’s L.E.A.P. Conference playing porg golf,” he adds with a laugh. “That was not a thing that we really expected anybody to do. But because you can pick up the porg, what happens if I then use the porg to push stuff around? We quickly realized there’s interactions that you want to encourage and there’s patterns you want to find ways of discouraging. We eventually had to come up with a way of preventing people from shaking porgs.”

To date, the team has had over 150 testers explore the project as they fine tuned the details. “In the early days, we made this very simple first prototype and it’s surprising how close we ended up to that,” says Koperwas. “We had a couple of toys and the porgs would walk around and jump from location to location. The simplicity of the prototype was that it was made for a very specific space; everything was pre-built, but it was delightful.”

Porg concept art from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

They also combed through video reference of real-world animals and footage of the porgs from The Last Jedi, created using a mix of physical effect puppets and CGI magic, to complete the effect. Although the experience is the first time fans will encounter an adolescent of the species, allowing artists working on the project to design the feathery, Mohawk-like tufts of a fuzzy porg offspring while also dabbling in recreating the adults and hatchlings seen on film.

“There are so many tricks that you can do in movies that you just can’t when they’re in the room with you,” says Elsayad. “The mechanics have to be right because you can look at it from every perspective, you can’t force the perspective so it has to be true to life.”

“Toe spread was very, very important,” Koperwas says, an essential step in giving the creature a natural-looking step off and landing. “They’re firmly planted. It gives them a greater sense of being actually on the ground.” But perfecting a porg hop proved to be a sticking point for the designers as they creatures meandered from surface to floor. “It’s something that you kind of think, ‘this should be as simple as can be,’” says Koperwas. But the effect relies on a perfect mix of animation, lightening, end environmental awareness triggered seamlessly by artificial intelligence technology.

A porg from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

Porg concept art from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.
Porg concept art from Star Wars: Project Porg by ILMxLAB.

Cat-like aloofness 

Pet birds, like budgies, and the original porg inspiration, the regal puffin, helped designers with movement. But they also looked to more common household pets. The porgs are essentially a cross between “the cat personality, being much more on their own and just kind of solitary and wanting to find a warm space and just hang out, and dogs that are much more anxious and eager to play and interact with you,” says Koperwas. “Being able to hold your hand out and have them follow your hand. Sometimes they run away, sometimes they preen a little bit.”

Elsayad, who has two cats at home, incorporated a laser pointer after seeing his own beloved pets go wild for the toy. It also serves as a solid example of how realistic the experience feels when you’re immersed in it. “On top of having porgs run around, which is obviously good fun, the laser pointer will stop at a wall, or on the ground or at a table, which further anchors the entire experience into your space.”

And Unreal Engine 4 helped engineers build the porgs’ artificial intelligence. “One of my favorite moments in the entire experience is when porgs start mimicking your head movement,” says Elsayad. “It’s one of the things that we kept coming back to. ‘How can we make the porgs pay more attention to you?’ And sometimes it’s just as simple as slowing things down and allowing the porgs to look at you in the eyes for a second before they do something. The difference in emotional response between a porg that’s trying to do something to impress you and a porg that just stops, turns at you, looks at you, smiles metaphorically and then does the thing is really powerful.”

The future is now

In the future, the team hopes mixed reality can be an added layer to the human experience of everyday life, used for entertainment in off hours or even a distraction on a long commute to work. Video calls connecting colleagues separated by time zones and vast oceans could transition into mixed reality. “I’m looking forward to being able to have a meeting where the people who are remote are actually sitting in that chair and aware of where I’m looking,” says Elsayad. “I can look them in the eye.”

“What I’m most interested in is this eventually emerging medium of telling stories over time,” adds Koperwas.  “We’re getting to this point where you can start to gain a relationship to a character and that story can be told through your direct relationship with that character. It’s no longer this sort of, ‘Oh they’re talking to the camera’ or breaking the fourth wall. No, it’s you. You’re part of the story. You are integral to it and we’re going on this story together.”

Koperwas expects that mixed reality will one day alter the way we lay out our homes, with rooms often configured around a glowing television screen. “And what that means for design, what that means for communication, eventually architecture as mixed reality gets more integral to our lives and becomes much more accessible, I think everything about the world is going to be very different from what we have now.”

But today, the team is just excited to see the first fans step into this larger world of porg caregiving. “One of the most profound joys is watching somebody else put on a headset and almost instantly forget that other people are there and just focus their attention on this new little creature that they’ve maybe wanted to meet for a long time,” Koperwas says. “That’s just the most heartwarming.”

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Hatching ILMxLAB’s Star Wars: Project Porg

A New Virtual Experience Allows You to Raise Your Own Porg

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Even before The Last Jedi came out, porgs were everywhere. Porg dolls, porg sneakers, porg backpacks…the world was porg obsessed, and that’s only continued since the release of the film. However, for obvious reasons, the one thing no one could really have was an actual porg. So Lucasfilm’s ILMxLab aimed to change…

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https://io9.gizmodo.com/a-new-virtual-experience-allows-you-to-raise-your-own-p-1832729349

The New Wreck-It Ralph VR Experience Combines the Best of Both Movies Into a Wacky, Wonderful Time 

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Recently, I found myself fighting off evil drones and saving the internet using nothing but a trusty weapon that fires milkshakes and pancakes. This, of course, happened in virtual reality. Specifically, the Void’s latest collaboration with Disney and ILMxLAB: Ralph Breaks VR, based on the films Wreck-It Ralph and

Read more…

https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-new-wreck-it-ralph-vr-experience-combines-the-best-1830448742

How Starlight Xperience Turns Ailing Kids into Astro-Mechanics

StarWars.com

You can almost smell the stink of oil baths and grease in the air as BB-8 arrives, beeping plaintively as he plops down on the repair bay platform. As a technician aboard General Leia Organa’s ship, the Resistance is counting on you to keep the most essential astromechs in working order and help fix those who have fallen into disrepair.

For the last year, ILMxLAB’s VR experience Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay – Astro-Mechanic for the Resistance has been transporting fans to a galaxy far, far away through immersive virtual reality. Now it’s part of an innovative new platform that’s giving hospitalized children the chance to help a one-of-a-kind orange and white droid in need without ever leaving their beds.

Chris Helfrich speaks at an event to launch 'Starlight Xperience.'

Recently, Starlight Children’s Foundation announced Starlight Xperience, the ambitious and groundbreaking new technology program that brings comfort to seriously ill children through virtual reality headsets, both as a reprieve from the boredom of being cooped up in the hospital and a form of “distraction therapy,” says Chris Helfrich, CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation. “Happy kids heal faster. That’s why we do what we do,” Helfrich says. “What inspired it was the question that we ask ourselves everyday, which is: How can we make the hospital experience for seriously ill children better? How can we bring joy and excitement to kids in this otherwise really difficult time?”

Starlight Gowns

The foundation’s noble efforts to bring comfort and joy to children in hospitals runs the gamut from low-tech ideas to improve outdated essentials to cutting-edge technology, specially modifying commercially available platforms to meet strict infection safety protocols.

Samples of Starlight Gowns are shown.

About two years ago, the organization launched Starlight Gowns, an innovative redesign of hospital-issue robes that incorporates costumes from Star Wars characters including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and R2-D2. “It’s our effort to improve the hospital experience by turning a source of misery for a child — an old, uncomfortable hospital gown that hasn’t been redesigned in any significant way in over 100 years — and turn it into a source of joy for a child,” Helfrich says. The line offers a softer, more comfortable alternative, “like your favorite T-shirt,” that still gives physicians and other medical professionals the access needed to perform tests and procedures. “They tie down the side instead of down the middle of the back so there’s good privacy and your butt’s not hanging out,” Helfrich adds.

The gowns can also be a source of empowerment, and a way for children to express their individuality. “We’ve been able to transform these kids into their favorite Star Wars characters,” Helfrich says.

‘Healers in the world of Star Wars’

This summer, a pilot program for Starlight Xperience was launched and tested at five children’s hospitals: Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford; Children’s Hospital Colorado; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn.; and Texas Children’s Hospital. The headsets include several different pre-loaded experiences, games, and puzzles, including Droid Repair Bay. “For us, it was an idea that was rooted in our longstanding commitment to make the hospital experience as fun and entertaining as possible,” Helfrich says.


“We know that VR has the potential to transport us to other worlds and establish deep and intimate connections with characters, but Droid Repair Bay, in particular, had a clear and obvious alignment with the Starlight Children’s Foundation program,” adds ILMxLAB’s Vicki Dobbs Beck. “In the experience, your mission is to assist the Droid Doctor and nurse droids in repairing injured or malfunctioning droids, so they can return to their posts and continue supporting the efforts of the Resistance. It was a unique and empowering opportunity for children in the hospital — one in which those seeking healing in the real world become the healers in the world of Star Wars.”

“If you have a child in the hospital it can often be a sad and scary and anxiety-provoking time and so being able to prevent or stop a child’s fear or anxiety and replace it with a smile has real positive consequences,” Helfrich adds. “Our programs, first and foremost, are designed to bring happiness to sick kids. I think the medical benefits from that are fantastic.”

The headsets can be used as a reprieve from boredom, a reward for being brave during a long day of tests, therapy, and procedures, or even a way to distract from scary or painful experiences as they transpire.

“Whether it’s having their port accessed, their blood drawn, or burn bandages changed, we’ve seen this program being used effectively to reduce fear and anxiety during those often painful procedures,” Helfrich says. “[A child] can get through a procedure just by being immersed in a headset and he or she can go snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or on a trip to the Eiffel Tower.” Or by joining the Resistance and becoming a part of the Star Wars story.

“The deeply immersive nature of VR is truly transportive, and, as such, has the potential to completely absorb you in the richness of another world, and engage you with the opportunity to explore and discover,” Dobbs Beck adds. “Well-crafted experiences can also be multi-sensory — enchanting you through what you see, hear and feel.”

Children meet BB-8 at the Starlight Children's Foundation event to launch 'Starlight Xperience.'

2,000 units

Starlight plans to distribute about 1,000 of the first Starlight Xperience units by the end of 2018, with the hopes of at least doubling the number of headsets in use next year, reaching children in over 200 different hospitals by the end of 2019. “All kids deserve to experience all of the magic and wonder of childhood,” Helfrich says. The programs have also proven effective for entire families, including parents and siblings. “For parents especially, the joy it brings parents to see a smile on their child’s face as he or she battles a serious illness or goes through a serious injury, it’s important.”

Starlight Xperience launched last month in collaboration with Star Wars: Force for Change, one of the program’s founding sponsors, Lucasfilm, and The Walt Disney Company.

“We believe Starlight Xperience has the potential to transform the hospital experience for millions of seriously ill children and their families,” says Helfrich, making children in need fell more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver what you love most about Star Wars!

How Starlight Xperience Turns Ailing Kids into Astro-Mechanics