Magical Tablet App Makes Darth Vader Your Tour Guide

Simply hold a tablet in the air, while Darth Vader, Nosferatu, and others lead you through a museum.

Most adults know better than to call a museum boring. But kids? Kids may need coaxing.


That’s why the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam enlisted Godmother Films to reimagine the experience of going to a film museum. And what Godmother films created is pretty unbelievable. You hold an tablet in the air, and you see the exact same museum scene your eyes see, except this time, Darth Vader, Nosferatu, and The Shining twins may be lurking within the frame, beckoning you to follow them.

When I use the word “unbelievable,” I really mean it. The effect is so good that when I watched the video above, I didn’t believe what Godmother films showed could actually exist. It appears to be augmented reality that looks generations beyond what we have today, with full motion figures walking in 3-D space, perfectly.

Then the team revealed to me the simple hack that made it all possible: This isn’t a complicated 3-D app, but a video that they filmed from the exact same vantage point as a viewer. The magic is 100% illusion.

“You actually activate the video in a specific spot, and the video keeps on playing except for a few spots in which you activate it,” cowriter and director Zoe d’Amaro explains. “Basically you are asked to take a walk, and the video keeps on playing as you walk.”

But why do people choose to walk along with the video? The team attributes it to digital make-believe. Basically, when Darth Vader is leading you through the museum, the effect feels so gratifying that you, as a viewer, want to keep it going, so you do your part and walk fast enough to keep up.

The experience did require a bit of testing and polishing. Originally, kids weren’t holding the tablets fully upright, so they weren’t experiencing the illusion. Designers tweaked the start screen with clear instructions, and results improve dramatically. After that piece was solidified, the biggest complaint was the best complaint possible: The tour only lasted 15 minutes.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.