Star Wars: Jedi Challenges hands-on — wielding a lightsaber in augmented reality

Disney wants you to be immersed in Star Wars this fall as The Last Jedi film comes out in December. And one of the ways it is doing that is with Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an augmented reality headset that makes you feel like a Jedi.

I tried out Jedi Challenges in a hands-on demo, and it worked better than I thought it would. It wasn’t a purely gimmicky experience, the way that many AR demos feel. The product debuted on November 3 in Best Buy Stores and the Lenovo website. Disney is heavily advertising it on TV. The headset isn’t cheap at $200, so it’s an expensive toy for the Star Wars kid in all of us.

Lenovo makes the headset, and Disney designed the AR experiences, combining both animated software with brand new hardware, said Mike Goslin, the vice president of development at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, in an interview with GamesBeat. He said the team pulled together a mix of game designers, theme park creators, and AR experts to build the device over the past two years.

“We didn’t find a device out there that was a perfect fit, so we chose to create our own,” Goslin said. “We felt that AR was a great way to deliver the visuals. We wanted it to be immersive, but mass market. It had to be affordable and comfortable.”

Above: Star Wars: Jedi Challenges headset, sensor, and lightsaber.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The device is a lot more affordable than it might have been because it uses your smartphone as a screen. But when you slide your iPhone or Android phone into the headset, it is flipped up, and a mirror captures the images for your eyes. This way, you can see the animated imagery as well as the real world in front of you. The device blends both together.

You can see the real world as it is, so there is no lag as you have in other devices that use a camera to show you the real world. The focal depth is beyond a meter, so you see a clearer image. The device isn’t tethered, and it is activated by a mobile app….

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