While "Baby Yoda" from The Mandalorian threatens to overshadow it, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters next week, which means it's time for Disney and Lucasfilm to ramp up its promotional strategy.
And there's little surprise that augmented reality is part of the marketing toolkit for the conclusion of the Skywalker saga.
Not long ago (Thursday), in a galaxy...actually the same galaxy that we're in, Facebook introduced a whole portion of Star Wars-branded goodies, designed in collaboration with Disney, for the Messenger app, including themes, sticker packs, and, you guessed it, augmented reality camera effects.
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Unlike the Sith, where there are always two (no more, no less), Messenger offers three AR options, available in the camera effects carousel on iOS and Android, for those who want to add some sci-fi action to their video calls and stories.
First, the Lightspeed experience features a background segmentation effect to immerse the user in a cosmic setting.
When users open their mouths, they can make the leap into hyperspace, with stars zooming past their heads.
Second, the Cockpit effect continues the space travel theme with a body mask that puts users in a Resistance pilot uniform and the cockpit of an X-Wing (specifically, Poe Dameron's suit and ship). As users turn their head, they get a glimpse of the surroundings of the cockpit, and, when they open their mouths in that position, the virtual X-Wing does a barrel roll.
Finally, it's time to choose a side in the Dark vs. Light experience. As users activate the effect, they are asked to choose a side by tilting their heads. A lean to the left elicits the red glow of the dark side lightsaber, while a tilt to the right summons blue illumination. It would have been neat to put a virtual lightsaber in the user's hand, but, even though the Skywalker saga is ending, Disney has plans for more Star Wars content.
The Messenger camera effects arrive just as Magic Leap and H&M are launching a Star Wars AR fashion experience in Japan.
Star Wars has had a long history with augmented reality, including AR experiences in the official Star Wars mobile app, the Star Wars Jedi Challenges game for Lenovo's Mirage AR headset, hologram effects in the Apple Clips app, AR porgs on Snapchat and Magic Leap, an AR sticker pack for Google Pixel's Playground app, and AR cross-promotions with auto brands Nissan and Renault. And, with multiple AR experiences used to promote Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we can expect more immersive offerings for Skywalker.
Why hasn't Disney put its big star of the moment in a single AR experience, though? Sure, an opportunistic Lens Studio creator has gifted Snapchat users with a 2D version of Baby Yoda, but we crave more!
Nevertheless, Star Wars fans shouldn't worry much, since the strong connection between Star Wars and AR suggests that it won't be long before an officially-sanctioned version of the Young One makes its way into our personal spaces.