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Virtual reality Star Wars experiences are coming this year

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The new ILMxLab is dedicated to creating VR and AR for Hollywood

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Did you feel that? That great disturbance in the Force? It's as if millions of voices suddenly cried out not in terror, but from sheer joy.

There is a lot of excitement about the upcoming Star Wars franchise refresh, but Lucasfilm, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light & Magic have just announced what might be the coolest news yet. The companies have formed ILM Experience Lab, or ILMxLab, for the express purpose of creating virtual and augmented reality experiences, and they're starting with the galaxy far, far away.

The Star Wars experiences created by ILMxLab will debut later this year alongside or even before the debut of The Force Awakens, according to USA Today. And just like ILM and Skywalker Sound work with other filmmakers, the new division will eventually offer its services to Hollywood as well.

A video published to ILM's YouTube account (seen above) gives some truly tantalizing glimpses of what's in store. Using Structure Sensor-equipped iPads and Oculus Rifts, it looks like you'll be able to do things like explore the dusty streets of Tatooine with C-3PO and R2-D2, or pilot an X-Wing.

In many ways the news is no surprise; big companies are embracing virtual and augmented reality in increasingly tangible ways seemingly by the day. It's not yet clear whether you'll access these experiences in a theme park or from your couch, but right now that really doesn't matter. Star Wars fans will finally have a chance to stare longingly at the twin sunset of Tatooine — and for that, they'd travel lightyears.

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