'Star Wars: The Trials of Tatooine' Virtual Reality Experience Makes Its Debut

Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB immersive entertainment unit has created a first-person, interactive virtual reality experience titled Star Wars: The Trials on Tatooine.

The Hollywood Reporter tried out the project on HTC and Valve’s upcoming Vive VR headset, and it was fantastic. In the first-person story, the viewer will begin standing on Tatooine in a 360-degree environment as the Millennium Falcon approaches and lands. R2D2 descends from the ship, and Han Solo’s voice from inside the ship guides the viewer through several tasks. When attacked, the handheld controller appropriately becomes a lightsaber and the viewer is called upon to defend R2 from capture.

“There are moments of play, but we are trying to drop you into an immersive story experience,” said ILMxLAB's executive creative director John Gaeta of the creative goal.

He also confirmed that additional stories from the Star Wars franchise on which they are working for VR are tied to Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as upcoming films.

"They will be connected in some fashion to the main threads [in the features]," said Gaeta. ”We are able to think about this these stories across years. In doing that, we are able to see where the stories can crisscross."

Vive is scheduled for availability in early April. But Gaeta asserted that ILMxLab's goal is to “try different platforms. We are actively developing major premiere pieces, not with a development date in mind."

ILMxLAB has presented additional Star Wars-themed VR experiments, including last fall at the Oculus Connect Developers Conference (Oculus Rift is also scheduled for release in early April.)

Said Vicki Dobbs Beck, ILM's executive in charge of strategic planning: “I think 2016 and 2017 will be defining years for VR, and many predict that 2018 will be when it really take off.”

ILMxLAB is aimed at creating immersive experiences for VR, in addition to augmented reality, theme parks, and, eventually, theaters.

Asked about creating VR content for additional Disney-owned properties including Marvel and Pixar, Gaeta stopped short of confirming but said, “Disney has other franchises, and we interact with them. We have a lot of those conversations.”

VR is a big topic this week at the Game Developers Conference, which began Monday and runs through Friday in San Francisco.