Star Wars is heading at light speed toward Google's Cardboard headset, in the form of a new virtual reality experience that will be available from 2 December.
Google has already pledged its allegiance to new Star Wars movie "The Force Awakens" by giving its apps a galactic overhaul, but its partnership with Disney extends beyond decoration into a whole new format with exclusive content.
With the Cardboard offering, Disney promises a serialised experience that ties directly into the opening of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," according to StarWars.com. The project has been developed by ILMxLAB, a Lucasfilm immersive entertainment studio, and will be available in the Star Wars app for both the iPhone and mobile devices running on Google's Android operating system.
Virtual reality is increasingly being used by marketers and others, but with few VR headsets actually on sale yet the medium will need time to develop into its own form of entertainment. Whether it's gaming or horror movies, VR does have the potential to impress, but until devices like the PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift hit the market, consumers will have a limited chance to enjoy VR on a daily basis. The $100 Gear VR headset from Facebook's Oculus VR division and Samsung went on sale Friday in the US, but it works only with certain Samsung smartphones.
Google's Cardboard gadget lets people slot a smartphone into a folded-cardboard headset to view VR apps. Though it doesn't offer the same level of interactivity as its rivals, its low cost provides a gateway to further usage (The New York Times recently gave Cardboard headsets away to some subscribers so they could check out a VR story from the paper).
"The Force Awakens" is widely expected to be the highest grossing film of 2015, and by offering fans of the franchise the opportunity to get hold of extra, exclusive content, this cross-promotional exercise could work in Google's favour -- getting people hooked on VR before most of the major, more expensive devices even hit store shelves.
For Star Wars superfans, four custom editions of the Cardboard headset printed with "popular Star Wars images" will also be available from 2 December. To try out the Star Wars VR experience as soon as it's available, you'll need to have downloaded the Star Wars app for Android or for Apple's iOS.