Disney Designs New Lightsaber That Extends and Retracts Just Like the Film Versions

For some of us out there, society’s technical advancements can all be measured by answering one question: How close are we to a real lightsaber?

While the model outlined in Disney’s newest patent application may not cut through solid steel, it will have an advantage over previous toys and replicas. Published today by Disney Enterprises, Inc., “Sword Device with Retractable, Internally Illuminated Blade” outlines a lightsaber design which allows the “energy blade” to shoot forth and retract in a way that properly mimics the iconic weapon’s use in the Star Wars franchise.

Currently, if you want to walk the path of the Jedi you’ve got two basic options. The cheaper choice involves purchasing a toy with a telescoping blade, with larger segments near the hilt and smaller segments near the tip, creating a triangular — and not very film accurate — shape. For more money you get more accuracy, so you could also purchase a fixed blade that looks closer to the movie ones when lit, but can’t extend or retract at all. Remember that iconic scene where Mace Windu stopped to screw in his purple blade before battle? Nope, neither do we.

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Disney’s new lightsaber tech aims to recreate both aspect of the weapon, allowing for extension and retraction but having a believably brilliant blade when in use. The patent application describes,

Briefly, the inventors recognized that there was a need for a new special effects device that can be used as a theatrical prop, toy, or collector’s item that effectively simulates fictional energy swords including the lightsabers found in many popular films. Particularly, the special effects device (or energy sword, lightsaber prop, or the like) is specially configured to provide an extendable and retractable energy blade that appears to emanate from a handheld hilt due to a lighting effect that appears to provide bright hilt-based lighting.

The idea behind how it works is genius, because it is based in an action many of us nerds performed in our youth (or last Tuesday). Have you ever extended a tape measure and retracted it, pretending it was a lightsaber? I have, and I had no idea that what I was doing would be used by Disney inventors years later.

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Imagine two tape measures, both with half-circle cross sections, placed together to create a tube. Disney’s lightsaber hilt would include two spools, one for each half of a cylinder; when extended by a motor the spools would shoot out the two halves, joining them together and producing a lightsaber-blade shape. The opening of the hilt is shaped to overlap the sides or “zip” them together, making for one solid blade.


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A lightsaber’s gotta light, so LEDs or other lighting elements could be affixed to the “tape” to create the effect, evened out by an anisotropic diffuser to give the appearance of one long, solid light.

The motor would rotate the spools to extend the blade, and also draw them back into the hilt. The lighting elements could be affixed to the blade halves themselves, or extended and retracted using a third spool in the hilt.

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This technology could be used for theatrical props, toys, collector’s items, or even in live shows expected to take place in Disney Parks, especially the soon-to-open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge areas in the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

As must always be noted: The existence of an application does not guarantee a patent’s approval, and the existence of an approved patent does not guarantee the technology’s use.

That being said, this looks like a wonderful design that could boost the quality of Jedi costumes both in the parks and on the convention floor.

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Source/Images: United States Patent and Trademark Office

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