These are the droids you’re looking for. Star Wars™: Droid Repair Bay lets you explore, tinker with, and fix BB-8 and three new droids in this first-of-its-kind VR experience. This narrative journey will excite franchise fans and newcomers alike—and get them pumped up for the upcoming film.
We spoke with ILMxLAB Senior Producer Daniel Aasheim to learn more about the experience.
What can you tell us about Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay?
Daniel Aasheim: The official VR experience of Star Wars™: The Last Jedi™, it’s a unique virtual reality story created by ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division, and set aboard General Leia Organa’s ship—a location seen in the film. We were fortunate to partner with Nissan to be able to bring this VR story to life.
How did you use the immersive nature of VR to your advantage during development?
DA: That drives and motivates us in the actual design of every VR experience that we build at ILMxLAB. It’s critical that design incorporates the strengths of the platform and doesn’t just build something that would work equally well as a 2D experience. We test and play constantly, looking for the strongest and most rewarding experience we can give. Opening up a droid isn’t something most people have experienced first-hand. It reminds me of the first time I saw Star Wars, and Luke is focused on figuring out what’s wrong with R2-D2. His discovery opens up an amazing story—an epic journey. We hope that the ability to relate to the droids in our virtual reality experience inspires fans of these characters and our universe.
What do you hope die-hard fans of the Star Wars franchise will take away from the experience?
DA: Creating the three new droids for this experience was really fun. We hope that our fans enjoy seeing their designs and getting to know their personalities, seeing how they can interact with the BB units in the droid repair bay. As with all Star Wars content, we strive to create unique stories that expand the universe, and we hope that this story along with the new droids work together for a memorable experience in virtual reality.
How about people who are entirely new to the Star Wars universe?
DA: There are so many ways to engage with the universe—dark or light side, Resistance or First Order, bounty hunters, planets, multitudes of species, the list goes on. We really wanted to craft an experience that would be accessible for many people, from teens to parents and old to new fans, and get them excited for the upcoming film. If people are new to the universe, we hope that Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay is something they love to experience and that piques their interest to explore the vast galaxy that we all love.
Did you encounter any challenges while working on the project? How did you overcome those obstacles?
DA: We always do! Making VR stories is a lot of fun, but it is definitely challenging. Every project is always full of both creative and technical obstacles. You overcome those obstacles, really, through collaboration and as a team. Pro-tip: Make sure the team is full of brilliant, inspired, creative, and technical minds. The entire development team on Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay checked that box. Whether the challenge is a design or technical problem, you figure it out by working together, prototyping alternative solutions, and iterating a lot—refining and testing those solutions until one feels right!
What would you point to as the most memorable moment in the development process?
DA: For me, it’s always when we start to get a polished product that we can share. When the content really clicks with someone, where you can see they’re really moved by what we’ve made—that’s my favorite part. People's faces light up and they smile so big when they interact with the droids. My favorite moment was when a mom was getting a demo and she started talking to the droids—so loud, so cheerful, like someone baby-talking to one of their pets. It was awesome to watch! To see someone completely lean into the story we’ve created and believe, to see them relate to the droids in that way, is really rewarding.
How do you think the intersection of VR and film will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond?
DA: There are so many exceptionally talented creative and technical individuals that are focused on inventing new ways to amaze, astound, entertain, and move through this storytelling medium. What I love about it is the constant surprise and evolution. I can’t predict what’s coming in terms of that intersection, but I can guarantee that it will evolve. It is a privilege to work in an industry where I am continually delighted by what others are making and how they’re making it.
What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
DA: There are so many exciting possibilities down the road that the hardest part about being at ILMxLAB is deciding which project to work on next. We have really cool projects that are for VR enthusiasts at home, as well as location-based experiences. We’re passionate about finding incredible opportunities for people to step inside the stories of our universe. For more, check out ILMxLAB on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Daniel. We can’t wait to meet the new droids!
May the Force be with you!
— The Oculus Team