In 2008, President Obama bucked traditional, technophobic White House trends by keeping a BlackBerry phone. Leaving office in 2016, Obama’s marked another tech first for a sitting president: virtual reality.
National Geographic Aug. 25 released an 11-minute VR video documenting the president’s Father’s Day weekend family vacation in Yosemite National Park, with Obama walking viewers through his tour of Yosemite’s highlights, including the vertical granite formation of El Capitan, the sequoias of Mariposa Grove, the Yosemite Falls waterfall, the Merced River, the Cathedral rock formations, and the Glacier Point viewpoint.
The VR video — Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks — was released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, according to Nat Geo.
“National Geographic has been a pioneer in visual storytelling throughout its 128-year history,” Rajiv Mody, VP of social media for National Geographic, said in a statement. “We see virtual reality as a new frontier and are thrilled to use this powerful medium to help celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial anniversary.”
Beyond featuring Yosemite’s natural highlights, the video also sees Obama interacting with students visiting the park, and speaking with Don Neubacher, superintendent for Yosemite National Park. First lady Michelle Obama and the president’s daughters Malia and Sasha are also featured in the video.
Montreal-based, cinematic VR production company Felix & Paul Studios and Facebook-owned VR tech company Oculus worked with Nat Geo to create Through the Ages.
“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,” Félix Lajeunesse, co-founder of Felix & Paul Studios, said in a statement.
“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.”
Through the Ages is currently available as a free VR download via the Oculus store for the Samsung Gear VR, with support for the Oculus Rift expected soon. A 360 version of the video can also be viewed on Facebook.