The hype around ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is kicking into high gear — here’s what Disney just announced

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“Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” is a $199 augmented reality headset that lets you lightsaber battle baddies like Kylo Ren.
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Disney

We’re still a few months out from the December 15th premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But the hype begins now.

On Friday, September 1st, Disney will hold “Force Friday II,” the official kickoff for the wave of “The Last Jedi” merchandise and marketing that will carry us through the holiday season. The original “Force Friday,” held for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” was just one day; this second go-around will last from September 1st to the 3rd.

First off, Disney is doing some very nifty things with augmented reality – the technology for combining digital imagery with the real world – to bring the “Star Wars” universe to life all over the world.

Second, prepare for a deluge of new “Star Wars” action figures, droids, drones, and other goodies. That includes a $199 augmented reality headset, developed by Disney and Lenovo, that serves as an amazing example of what Apple thinks could be the next big thing in computing.

But enough talk. You want to hear more about “Star Wars.” Here we go.


On Friday, September 1st, Disney is kicking off “Force Friday II,” officially marking the beginning of the hype cycle for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” To celebrate, you’ll be able to use the “Star Wars” app to see Imperial Star Destroyers hovering over world-famous landmarks. Check it out.


I’m just gonna start with my favorite thing. This is “Jedi Challenges,” a $199 headset that Disney developed in conjunction with Lenovo. It projects the world of “Star Wars” all around you, using what Silicon Valley types call “augmented reality.”

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

In the demo I tried, it let you challenge Kylo Ren to a lightsaber duel, using the controller to block his blade and strike back. The battle is projected over the real world, giving the illusion that Kylo is in the room with you. It’s neat, and it works well, apart from a few glitches where the system lost track of where I was holding my saber.

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Disney

Beyond lightsaber battling, “Jedi Challenges” offers a tactical mode that casts you as a Resistance general, ordering troops into battle against the evil First Order. Better yet, it also includes the Holochess game made famous in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

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Disney

You need an Android or iPhone to make it work. Slide your phone into the headset, place the purple glowing beacon on the ground in front of you, pick up the lightsaber, and you’re officially a Jedi, like your father before you. The headset will be available by the holiday shopping season.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Sphero, the makers of 2015’s hit BB-8 app-controlled droid, is back at it again with the $149 BB-9E — marking the debut of a new, evil droid in the “Star Wars” universe.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Sphero is also launching a $179 R2-D2, also controlled with your phone. It can emote, too, including a cute little routine where it shakes and falls over like a Jawa shocked it.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Away from the smartphone, Hasbro is preparing its usual lineup of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” action figures for launch later in the fall. Fortunately, the women of the “Star Wars” universe are well-represented, with our hero Rey joined by new characters Rose and Paige.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

These toys have a high-tech twist, too. Hasbro is selling the “Force Link,” a $25 child-sized armband. If you hold any of the new “Last Jedi” action figures, vehicles, or playsets, they make appropriate noises. So Rey makes lightsaber sounds…

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

…while this Resistance A-Wing whooshes and fires lasers.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

And speaking of spaceships. Drone company Propel is releasing these neat, palm-sized “Star Wars” combat drones for $179 each, starting later this year.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

What makes them combat drones? Well, they can fly around and shoot at each other with (harmless) laser beams. If you shoot the other ship (or ships) a few times, they float to a landing for a few seconds. A smartphone app keeps score. And sorry about the motion blur, but these suckers can move: Each one hits a top speed of about 13mph.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

These drones come in a variety of styles, from the legendary X-Wing to TIE Fighters and Imperial speeder bikes.

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

And then there’s littleBits, a Disney-backed startup that makes Lego-like kits that make it easy for kids to get started with basic robotics. On September 1st, littleBits will start selling a $99 “Droid Inventor Kit,” which lets kids build their own, functional R2-D2…

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

…and then encourages them to customize it with parts they can find around the home. It can follow pre-set patrol paths, spin the “drill” on its chest, or make a ruckus when it detects an intruder (or a sibling).

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

And while you’re at the store to pick this stuff up, Disney has another augmented reality surprise up its sleeve. Retailers including Best Buy and Target will have special posters you can scan with the “Star Wars” app, and then use to take selfies with virtual versions of the classic characters.

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Disney

Whether you’re picking up the merch (some stores are doing midnight releases of the toys), or just waiting for the next trailer to drop, “Force Friday II” means that “Star Wars” mania is here, and may the Force be with us.

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Lucasfilm