For the past few years ILMxLAB, Industrial Light and Magic’s Experience Lab, has been developing new ways to enjoy Star Wars using the latest virtual and augmented reality technologies. We've seen some samples of ILMxLAB’s projects in that time, but nothing beyond a very nice tech demo has been released to the public so far. That changes this winter when ILMxLAB and The Void will team to release Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. Billed as a full-immersive virtual reality experience, Secrets of the Empire will let you actually enter that galaxy far, far away by simply dropping a visor down over your head.

Announced on the Star Wars blog, The Void’s latest “hyper reality” development will allow players to wander untethered in a multi-sensory experience. Before you go getting your hopes up that you'll be able to run around Disneyland with a VR headset on, the “untethered” aspect just means you won't be tied down to a computer like most home VR systems. Instead, the system runs off a backpack you wear, which powers both the headset and gun you carry on your adventure. You will still be inside an enclosed space, but one that has been specifically tailored to match not only what you’re seeing on screen, but to make it feel like you're actually in that space beyond visual cues.

Previously you might recall Void teaming with Sony and Madame Tussaud’s for Ghostbusters Dimensions, a VR experience still available in several locations around the US. We tried it out ourselves, and came away completely captivated by Void’s devotion to crafting such an authentic mixed-reality environment. Full sets were built, including an apartment with furniture and a TV to give depth to what we were seeing on screen. If you walked to the chair you saw in your headset, it was really there in the room. That was nothing compared to the gusts of cold air, the smell of burnt marshmallows and all kinds of other environmental effects tied directly to what we were seeing on screen to make us feel like we were actually Ghostbusters.

There aren’t many details about what Secrets of the Empire will entail just yet, but based on the concept art, it looks like we'll be working with the Rebel Alliance to fend off the Empire. Obviously Stormtroopers will play a part, but other Star Wars villains will clearly play an important role as well. We can’t quite tell who that figure is on the floating platform, but the level art shows off Mustafar and Darth Vader’s castle in the distance. Hope you’re ready to sweat with all the heat Void will be pumping in to make it feel like you're on a lava planet. At least K-2SO will be there to help you along the way, if this concept art is true to what the final experience is like anyway.

There’s no information yet about how many people can participate at once or how long the mission will last, but Ghostbusters Dimensions was built for four people and lasted about 20 minutes a session. If you’re interested in going, definitely pay attention to when reservations open, as this is going to be one of the most popular things to do in Disney’s off-site resort locations for quite some time.

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire doesn't have an official launch date, but is expected to open this holiday season in both Disneyland's Downtown Disney and Walt Disney World's Disney Springs. You can check out the full concept art below, and hope that you don't get burned on Mustafar working for the Rebellion.


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