Disney recently filed a patent for a lightsaber and laser deflection system which may be installed at Star Wars Land. The system would provide a more realistic lightsaber experience for audience members.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a real Jedi or Sith, Disney is working to make your dream come true.
via Google Patents
In 2015, The Walt Disney Company filed a patent for a lightsaber and laser deflection system which will give audience members the realistic sensation of wielding a lightsaber in a battle scenario (via /Film). The patent was only just published online last month, July 2016. Presumably, the system is being developed for Star Wars Land at Disneyland and Disney World.
Below is the official description of the “Audience interaction projection system” from Google Patents:
"A process and system capture infrared light that is reflected or emitted from a device to precisely locate the device. The process and system project visible light from a light source toward the device such that the light is precisely targeted at the device. Preferably the visible light passes through an atmosphere containing particulate matter rendering the visible light as a beam that appears to emanate from the device rather than from the light source."
I am no expert at translating patent descriptions, and neither are the reporters at /Film. The latter turned to PatentYogi for a more understandable explanation, and that’s where we went, too.
First, says PatentYogi, the atmosphere will be filled with “particulate matter” like water vapor, fog, liquid nitrogen, dust, or theatrical fog. An audience member will be given a lightsaber (fake, obviously; Disney isn’t that good yet) containing LED lights which transmit infrared rays.
Next, drones equipped with infrared sensors will fly over the area and detect the infrared rays coming off the lightsaber’s LED lights. The drone uses the rays to pinpoint where the lightsaber blade is located.
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Finally, the drone projects visible light through the atmosphere of vapor, fog, etc., toward the lightsaber. This creates the illusion the lightsaber is deflecting blaster bolts from enemy shooters, such as stormtroopers.
According to the patent file, animatronics, virtual characters, props, and haptic vests may be used in addition to the “faux light saber” (the patent’s term, not mine) to enrich the experience for audience members. “Haptic” means “of or relating to the sense of touch.” A haptic vest, or gloves or helmet or whatever Disney chooses to make, is equipped with transducers, which translate electric signals into physical sensations, like pressure. Such a device, when worn, would replicate the feeling of touch for the audience member wearing it. For example, when wearing a haptic vest an audience member would feel the pressure of a laser “hitting” them if they fail to deflect it.
Deflecting laser bolts may seem like a small challenge for a Jedi or Sith, but everybody has to start somewhere. Like Luke’s journey from being stung by the training remotes in A New Hope to deflecting the blaster bolts from Jabba’s thugs in Return of the Jedi, this laser system Disney is developing is the first step into a larger, more immersive Star Wars world.