Disney’s Lucasfilm and its ILMxLAB R&D unit on Thursday announced a strategic alliance with Magic Leap, an augmented-reality startup that has raised nearly $1.4 billion in funding. Under the pact, the companies are forming a joint research lab at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus to work on storytelling within the Mixed Reality universe.
“The future of mixed reality and immersive entertainment holds incredible promise, and we are honored to work with Magic Leap to shape that future,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in announcing the deal. “At Lucasfilm and ILM, innovation has always been in our DNA; through this collaboration, ILMxLAB further propels our legacy of exploration and leadership on this new platform for experiential storytelling.”
The companies released a proof-of-concept video Thursday at Conde Nast’s Wired Business Conference in New York featuring C-3PO and R2-D2, showing the squat droid beaming holograms into the room using Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality technology. It’s reminiscent of the scene in the original “Star Wars” movie when R2-D2 projects a hologram recording of Princess Leia appealing for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
For now, there aren’t any details on what, exactly, will emerge from the partnership — or, indeed, the business model behind augmented-reality experiences. Magic Leap, founded in 2011, has not announced a time frame for the launch of its technology. The company’s investors include Alibaba Group, Warner Bros. and Google. Among other partnership, Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based VFX company, is producing content for Magic Leap’s platform, and Jackson serves on its advisory board.
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“Collaboration between our two companies is a perfect fit, and I can’t wait to share the results with the world,” Magic Leap founder, president and CEO Rony Abovitz commented on the Lucasfilm agreement.
Lucasfilm formed ILMxLAB last year to explore forms of storytelling on new media platforms. Earlier this spring, the division launched its first virtual-reality experience for “Star Wars” on the HTC Vive headset.
“We are pushing into an era of experiential, persistent and perceptual storytelling,” commented ILMxLAB executive creative director John Gaeta. “We want people to step inside our stories, and we want those stories to react back to people in deeply compelling ways. However, before magical realism becomes a seamless part of everyday life, it needs some advanced prototyping.”