How Disney’s ‘Real’ Lightsaber Patent Really Works

A true lightsaber. How is that possible?

It probably isn’t, of course. But when Disney Parks President Josh D’Amaro ended his presentation on April 8 by pulling out a never-before-seen retractable lightsaber, with no video evidence, mind, Disney and Star Wars fans went crazy online. Speculation was rampant, much of it pointing to a 2018 patent for an “internally lit, retractable blade Sword device.” I went through that patent late at night, and I’ve been trying to find a way to show Edge readers how it works since then. Hell, I even ordered a pair of LED bracelets that haven’t arrived yet.

But it looks like I won’t need them, because VR developer Ben Ridout has already done better, brilliantly illuminating Disney’s proprietary concept with a set of simple animations:

Yes, that’s correct, the magic here really comes down to a couple of fancy motorized tape measures. The patent even mentions “a metal carpenter’s tape measure” as inspiration.

According to the patent, the “blade” of the lightsaber consists of two spools of translucent material that lie flat when fully wound, like a tape measure inside its spool. When each tape is fired at the end, it curves into a semicircle that forms the middle of the sheet. They are permanently mounted on a rounded lightsaber “tip” that also pulls on a string of flexible LEDs that are mounted on a third motorized spool within the lightsaber frame. The two halves of the blade are joined by a “blade shape” as they exit the lightsaber, creating a single lightsaber beam.

Will such a lightsaber be stiff enough for a practice duel? Only Disney Imagineers can say for sure, but either way, this could be a game changer for the lightsaber community. We went on a hunt for the best Star Wars lightsabers in 2016, and while modern lightsaber accessories have incredible light, sound, and detail, the basics haven’t changed in years – you generally choose between a glorified flashlight with a Telescopic toy blade that can actually fit inside a handle, or more commonly now, a rigid tube filled with LEDs that you will have to remove and put away when you want to display your saber on a belt.

Now Disney may have created the full-size, evenly lit, missing lightsaber blade of our dreams. Minus the full part of “cutting objects in half with a bolt of energy”, of course. I wonder if it will be a prop for the Disneyland actors or the latest awesome toy that I can’t afford.

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