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. But the studio says it’s always possible that could change in the future — if the administration is interested.
Update January 18th, 11:00AM: Added studio statement about possible future work with the White House.