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Verizon brings 5G Ultra Wideband to the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker red carpet

The company shows off the power of its 5G network in its collaboration with Walt Disney Studios.

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- 02:43

What could make an experience like being among the first in the world to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker even better?  Stepping out of the theater and getting to interact with the newly introduced red armor-clad Sith troopers in real time. At the afterparty for the film's world premiere in Hollywood, California, attendees were able to get some face time with the new class of First Order troopers, thanks to Verizon Media's Ryot and a hookup by Verizon's 5G network.

The afterparty for the premiere was housed in the heart of Hollywood, in a large, pop-up structure in front of the Dolby Theatre, full of Star Wars costumes, celebrities mingling and free food and drinks. But a large LED wall displaying an image of blast doors, framed by Star Destroyer architecture, stood out among a crowd of curious movie-goers. After a brief wait in line, each person would approach the screen and the blast doors would open. Two Sith troopers in the distance approached and began interrogating the person standing in front of the screen.

But this wasn't some pre-recorded stunt. They respond in real time and will even remark on outfits, appearances and statements. To the right of the activation, a monitor can be seen with a live feed of two actors using media company RYOT's motion capture technology, performing and speaking for the troopers.  Also on the screen is a graphic that reads "Live from Playa Vista," the location of Verizon Media's 5G studio, miles away from the party on Hollywood Boulevard.

The point of the experience, beyond providing Star Wars geek thrills, was to demonstrate the responsiveness of Verizon's 5G network. The technology, poised to change the way we live our lives, promises greater speeds and lower lag times, connecting everything from our smartphones to, eventually, self-driving cars and factory robots. By connecting two actors miles away to guests at this party, it's demonstrating the real-time response of the network, something called low latency. 

Verizon's 5G network is live in more than 20 cities, but as our testing found, the coverage is limited to select square blocks. Walk 20 feet in the wrong direction, and your 5G coverage goes poof. The price of that super-high speed and responsiveness is, for now, limited range. 

I was able to try the experience for myself and was impressed with the low latency of the video feed in front of me.  It felt as if I were interacting with live costumed-characters at Disneyland, but these could observe me and give responses beyond some pre-recorded sound bites.  The entire 30-second experience got my mind racing with the possibilities this technology could bring to theme parks and other events.

In addition to the live activation at the party, Verizon also used the 5G network for the official red carpet broadcast prior to the premiere. Disney Studios production cameras were connected to Inseego MiFi M1000 devices sending high-definition video footage over the 5G network to the broadcast truck, where it was captured and live-streamed.  The broadcast of the red carpet event was live on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.