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Photonics to Bring Lightsaber Experience to Non-Jedis

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2016
MICHAEL D. WHEELER, MANAGING EDITOR, michael.wheeler@photonics.com

The lightsaber: The elegant weapon of the Jedi Knight has captured the imagination of legions of young moviegoers over the past four decades.

If Disney has its way, “Star Wars” fans will have the chance to experience what it’s like to be engaged in a lightsaber duel at one of its new Star Wars-themed parks being built at Disney World and Disneyland. The company recently filed a patent for an “audience interaction projection system” that involves drones, infrared LEDs, sensors and visible light sources.

LightsaberHere’s how it’ll work:

Visitors will enter a fog-filled theater carrying an amulet or other device made of reflective material. This faux lightsaber will be equipped with an LED that emits IR light toward drones flying above. As the LED on the amulet is turned on, IR sensors built into the drones capture an image of the field of view. A bright spot depicts the position of the activated LED; a light source from the drone projects light through the air, made visible by the water vapor.

When the IR light intersects with visible light fired from the drones hovering above, the participant experiences an illusion of a laser beam being deflected. The lightsabers could be designed to provide some form of haptic feedback such as a vibration, when the beams intersect.

Numerous LEDs can be activated in a sequence, which will give the user the sense of deflecting multiple laser beams simultaneously. It also will allow for multiple users with multiple light beams projected toward each participant.

While at this point a timeline for the system’s installation in the Disney parks remains to be seen, all of this talk of lightsaber duels is likely to excite legions of Star Wars fans.

So until the Star Wars parks open, lightsaber duels will remain the stuff of movie magic. May the Force be with us.


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