Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Starlight Foundation Launching Virtual Reality Experience with Force For Change


By Zac Arnold

A cooperative effort between Lucasfilm, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, Google, and Niagara Cares is launching a new program for hospitalized children across the United States.

The campaign is a virtual reality initiative, intended to entertain, educate, and inspire the imagination of thousands of hospitalized patients across the country. According to the official press release, Star Wars: Force for Change is the Founding Sponsor of the program, with additional funding from Niagara Cares. Google will be providing the VR technology. It is expected to launch in late 2017.

“We’re excited to announce the launch of Starlight VR which we believe will be a game-changer in the pediatric health care space,” said Chris Helfrich, CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation. “We’re excited to have Lucasfilm and Disney, Google and Niagara Cares alongside us as we harness the power of virtual reality to bring more smiles to hospitalized kids when and where they need it most.”

According to the press release, the program will be distributed to Starlight’s network of children’s hospitals and other health care facilities. Lucasfilm is partnering by allowing children to harness the VR technology and transport them from the hospital room to a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Lucasfilm’s hope is that the Star Wars name can be used on this platform to “empower and improve the lives of children around the world,” according to the press release.

Star Wars: Force for Change, through its parent company Disney, will be providing a grant to Starlight that funds the placement of 270 VR headsets and equipment in hospitals across the US. According to the press release, the new collaboration officially launches today, April 12, 2017, and will have a special event at the Florida Hospital For Children in Orlando.

“At Lucasfilm and ILMxLAB, we strive to make the impossible, possible and to deliver stories that inspire and entertain,” said Vicki Dobbs Beck, Executive in Charge of ILMxLAb. “We are honored to use our immersive storytelling to spark children’s imaginations during the hospital stay,”

Another addition made by Lucasfilm and Force For Change includes the "Brave Gown" initiative:

A significant grant from Niagara Cares will fund research and development for Starlight VR, as well as impact reporting to inform future program enhancements and usage recommendations.

Starlight VR will be a physical program geared toward entertainment and distraction purposes for use with children, according to the press release. In addition to the exclusive Star Wars VR content, the program will incorporate many of Google’s VR technologies, including: Google Expeditions, virtual field trips to the world’s most amazing places for children over the age of 7, as well as Daydream, Google Earth VR, and more.

“We’re thrilled to support this Starlight program and use our virtual reality technology for good in hospitals around the United States,” said Amit Singh, Google’s Vice President of Virtual Reality.

Picturing a child forced to stay in a hospital for days, weeks, or even months, this partnership strives to bring a smile to a child’s face thanks to the technology present today. It may not be a game of Sabacc or a functioning astromech, but it should still make a galaxy of difference in young people’s lives.

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