'Star Wars' Virtual Reality Experience Coming Soon

New technology from Industrial Light and Magic allows viewers to interact with movies

Star Wars fans will soon be able to truly immerse themselves in the world of the films, thanks to a new virtual reality component from Industrial Light and Magic. The special effects company, which George Lucas founded to create the original Star Wars visuals, announced on Friday that the new technology will debut later this year, reports USA Today.

ILM Experience Lab, the team behind the project, is developing iPad and Oculus Rift-based systems that will allow viewers to enter scenes of selected movies and navigate through and interact with them. "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," ILMxLab creative director John Gaeta said. "All that George 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." 

A YouTube video introducing ILMxLab shows users interacting with R2D2 and C3PO in Tatooine and piloting an X-Wing fighter jet. The team's use of interactive technology stands out from previous experiments in virtual reality video games in that it's noncompetitive and aims for photorealism. "With image-quality rivaling film, you'll be able to literally step into an alternate reality," said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

The ILMxLab technology is likely to make its debut alongside the December opening of J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The team will then begin working with other filmmakers to expand the project.