Today is the day I become one with the force. Thanks to our friends at Lenovo, we just got the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR kit that comes with a lightsaber, phone-powered AR headset, and small tracking beacon to bring the world of Star Wars into a user’s living room. I’ve opened it up, set up the system, and tried it out only briefly before writing this.
You can see in the image above the packaging is bright and attractive, showing your everyday guy engaged in an intense lightsaber duel with Star Wars’ own Kylo Ren. I haven’t gotten that far into the experience yet, but I’ve activated my lightsaber and cut a droid into a few pieces, so you might as well call me an experienced Jedi Master at this point.
“We started off thinking less about platforms and [more about] how could we deliver the best lightsaber experience,” Mike Goslin, VP, Advanced Development at Disney, said in an interview with StarWars.com. “We very quickly came to augmented reality as the best way to do lightsabers. We knew it was going to be really compelling to have a life-size character right up in your personal space. That’s really intense and dramatic. We knew we could do that. But we didn’t know we could actually do sword fighting, because it’s a really specific thing. And without making contact, does it even feel right? So we spent a lot of time, I’m embarrassed to say, out in the quad here with pool noodles, working out ‘What are you going to want to feel like when you’re dueling?’ We spent a lot of time making the A.I. good, but not too good. We found out pretty early on if you get everything to line up — if you have a little bit of a haptic feedback in your hilt, and the visual is telling you that you’ve contacted something, and the character that you’re battling reacts appropriately, and the audio supports that — you start to buy into it.”
When you are wearing the headset and power on everything, a holographic blade extends from the lightsaber to create the illusion that you’re holding one of the legendary fictional weapons. Characters appear as holograms as well. The tracking beacon acts as a floor-based anchor so that all holograms are tethered to it and help give them a sense of permanence in your environment.
In the gallery above you can get a look at what’s inside the box. What was most striking to me is that the included lightsaber is actually extremely high quality. This isn’t a plastic-feeling toy and the finish is both sleek and reflective. I was hesitant to even touch it due to the fingerprint smudges.
Once everything is out of the box setup was actually pretty involved. With devices like the Samsung Gear VR all you have to do is slide your phone in the slot and you’re good to go. With this kit I had to charge both the headset and lightsaber individually (as well as the Moto Z2 Force that Lenovo sent along pre-loaded with the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges app) and put two AA batteries in the little tracking beacon. The app walks you through the rest, which includes putting your phone in a little tray compartment and connecting it via included USB cord (shown below).
The verdict is still out on the quality of the experience itself, but it looks like about six missions are included, spread out among lightsaber battles, strategy game-style skirmishes, and holochess. We’ll have a full verdict on the experience early next week.
The Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR kit is available starting today for $199.99. What do you think of what you’ve seen so far? Let us know what you think down in the comments below!