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Google uses its VR camera rig for a Cardboard White House tour

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Google Expeditions, the educational program that equips schools with smartphones and Google Cardboard VR viewers, has stayed relatively low-profile since launching in September. So has Jump, Google's standard for a 16-camera VR video setup; the first official videos made with it started popping up last month. But today, it's putting out a video that combines both: a 360-degree tour of the White House's holiday decorations, available through the Expedition program and the White House's YouTube channel.

Like YouTube's other VR videos, the White House holiday tour is easy to watch as a flatscreen video; instead of looking around with a headset, you can click and drag around each shot. To really enjoy it, though, you'll need Cardboard or a similar mobile headset. (You'll also need an Android phone, since YouTube doesn't support VR on iOS.)

It takes a lot of work to make VR video look good, and the White House tour doesn't quite nail it; even on high resolution, it's a bit muddy compared to something like the documentary The New York Times produced with Vrse. On the other hand, the panorama is nearly seamless — Jump's stitching software, which fits together footage from those 16 cameras, is definitely doing its job. Either way, it drives home how something that's frankly prosaic on a tiny browser window — the way I initially watched it — becomes a lot of fun when it takes over your whole field of view.