Jan 25, 2016

May the Force Be With You: The IoT is Making Hollywood Magic a Reality

Are you one of the millions of people that came out of the movie theater after seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” wishing you had some Jedi mind tricks of your own? Even if your last name isn’t Skywalker and you haven’t had private lessons from Yoda, there is reason to be hopeful. Recent developments in the IoT market have life imitating art, which means that many aspiring Jedi are finally getting the education they’re looking for. Two companies in particular, Sphero and Uncle Milton Toys, have turned Hollywood magic into working products that let users awaken the Force within themselves.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sphero demonstrated a prototype of BB-8 — the affable droid that made its debut in the latest chapter in the space-based saga. When controlled with a smart phone or tablet, the automaton has several cool features. It can be set to automatically patrol on its own. Additionally, augmented reality (AR) can be applied to the app that controls BB, so that when the camera focuses on the droid it appears on your screen to be projecting images itself. But this IoT technology has been taken a step further at CES. Now, users can experience what it is like to have the Force for themselves. Using wearable bracelets, BB-8 can be manipulated to move around a room with simple hand gestures.

A line of toys has also been developed by Uncle Milton Toys called the Star Wars Force Trainer. The first iteration uses a helmet that picks up on users’ brainwaves and then sends the information to a piece of equipment that makes a ball levitate. The second version uses the same helmet, but allows users to interact with holograms. These games test users’ focus and can feed information back to connected devices to track their progress.

This technological breakthrough certainly provides a number of fun marketing opportunities for wannabe Jedi masters. However, it also represents a significant breakthrough with a wide array of potential applications that may change everything about how we interact with machines. Machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity – as seen at CES – has already gained considerable traction, and if a biological element can be brought into these interactions like the Force Trainer helmet, the IoT may soon have applications that far exceed existing uses. We may not be far off from a world in which we need only think about making a phone call for it to begin dialing for us. Smart cars may soon be able to redirect automatically at the first sign the driver is falling asleep behind the wheel. Our smart homes may even be able to adjust thermostats after we experience the slightest chill.

While this may seem like science fiction now, one thing is for certain: the IoT is making the stuff of Hollywood magic a reality today. We should not be surprised if these developments make their way to market in a galaxy much closer to home sometime soon.