On January 20th, President Barack Obama will step down to make way for Donald Trump. Before leaving, he and First Lady Michelle Obama recorded a tour of the White House shot by virtual reality film studio Felix & Paul. That tour went online today for Oculus VR headsets and Facebook 360-degree video.
The People’s House currently contains around half of the final film, which will run for 20 minutes. That will be released later this year, along with a 3D version meant specifically for VR. The content is the same, but if you’re in a headset, getting a sense of volume makes the experience decidedly more striking.
There’s actually been a VR tour of the White House before — the Google Expeditions educational initiative filmed a Christmas visit for students two years ago. But this one has far stronger cinematography and higher-quality video, as well as narration from both Obamas, who talk about both the White House’s history and their own time occupying it.
Barack Obama’s farewell speech was live-streamed in VR earlier this week, and he previously appeared in a commemorative VR film for the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, also shot by Felix & Paul. Like that video, the White House tour is part of a partnership with Oculus, which signed a deal with the studio in mid-2015.
Felix & Paul will be appearing next week at Sundance with Miyubi, a narrative VR film about a toy robot (and at 40 minutes, possibly the longest full VR film to date). But will we see more White House collaborations once Trump takes office? Studio co-founder Felix Lajeunesse notes that their current contacts will be leaving along with most of Obama’s staff. “The answer is no,” he says.