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article imagePresident Obama leads new VR tour of Yosemite National Park

By James Walker     Aug 26, 2016 in Technology
Oculus has announced a new virtual reality experience that sees President Obama take you on a tour of the Yosemite National Park. In the short 360-degree film, Obama remarks on several of Yosemite's most famous features to celebrate its centennial.
This is the first time that U.S. President Barack Obama has become involved with virtual reality, billed as the next big thing for technology as a whole. The film was shot during Obama's personal trip to Yosemite this year. It's a partnership between the White House, Oculus Studios, National Geographic and Felix & Paul, a production team developing virtual reality content.
The 11-minute 360-degree immersive video provides an "up-close-and-personal look" at Obama's trip, allowing you to follow his movements through the park. Titled Through the Ages: President Obama celebrates America's National Parks, it's designed to transport you to Yosemite ahead of its centennial. It gives you a greater sense of having visited than watching a standard film or series of photos.
The film takes in sights including El Capitan, the Cathedral Rocks, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite Falls and the Merced River. It features shots of Obama crossing the footbridge to obtain a view of Vernal Falls with the First Family, First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha. Other stunning shots include a time-lapse sunset shot from Glacier Point and video of Obama speaking to students in the park as part of his "Every Kid in the Park" initiative.
President Obama features in a new VR film about the US National Parks Service
President Obama features in a new VR film about the US National Parks Service
Oculus / National Geographic
The film has been billed as one of the best-looking VR experiences to date. It's supposed to be more than a stunning piece of cinematography, however. The shoot commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service, a force that has been instrumental in protecting some of America's most important natural wonders and making them accessible to the public.
For Oculus and the production team, virtual reality offers a way to bring the sights of the park to people who may never otherwise visit it. "Transporting people to places they might not get to see in their lifetime is one of the great powers of VR," said Oculus.
The film blends technology, patriotism and environmentalism together in a way that's rarely seen. It's designed to send a message to future generations that National Parks need to be preserved and maintained. The capabilities of the virtual reality medium help to make this message even stronger than it might otherwise have been.
President Obama features in a new VR film about the US National Parks Service
President Obama features in a new VR film about the US National Parks Service
Oculus / National Geographic
"As filmmakers, we wanted to use cinematic virtual reality’s unique transportive power to bring audiences into a journey with President Obama where they could experience firsthand the vertiginous, lyrical, and timeless beauty of Yosemite," said Félix Lajeunesse, Co-founder of Felix & Paul Studios. "We were deeply inspired by the idea that American national parks such as Yosemite were originally established ‘for all people for all times,’ as a way to allow future generations to experience the extraordinary and untouched beauty and richness of these natural wonders."
The film is immediately available today as a 360-degree video on Facebook. It can be viewed using Facebook's 360-degree video mode in its mobile app, or using a virtual reality headset. The experience is also available on the Samsung Gear VR, the company's mobile VR headset compatible with select Galaxy smartphones.
Oculus said support for its own Rift headset is coming soon. The film is available to watch for free, opening as many people as possible to the legacy of the National Parks.
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