Much like President Obama's ode to Yosemite, the new experience will be available on Facebook for everyone, as well as the Oculus Store for Gear VR and Rift owners. And just like that previous VR entry, The People's House is as much a meditation on an American institution as it is a glimpse into the Obamas' life. You start out by coming right through the front door and towards the lone podium where we've seen the President deliver countless announcements.
You get to sit right beside him in the Oval Office as he talks about what it's like to work there, and thanks to the freedom of 360-degree video, you can peer around to take in minute details of the room. Look to your left, and you'll see the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. that keeps its watchful eye over Obama. Look to the right, and you'll see a simple bowl of apples on a stately coffee table. Later on, Michelle Obama talks about what it was like to make a public museum feel like a home.
The People's House is also just a taste of what's to come. It clocks in at around eight minutes, but there's a longer version that's closer to 20 minutes coming later this year, according to the VR studio Felix & Paul, which filmed the experience. That extended edition will also be available in stereoscopic 3D, so it'll have more depth and sharpness than what we're seeing today, which is just a flat 360-degree video. I had a chance to view a few scenes in 3D, and it was like a night and day difference, with much sharper video and a greater sense of presence.
Felix & Paul shot the footage for the VR film over last November and December, and since they wanted to deliver something while President Obama was still in office, they chose to release a shorter video first. The 3D version will take more time to be edited and properly constructed. Equipment-wise, they used the same camera setup as their Yosemite film, but they also developed a robotic platform that moves in a "perfectly fluid way." That's responsible for the smooth motion in some of the VR experience's shots -- it feels akin to seeing a traditional movie camera on rails.
If anything, The People's House shows how VR can create snapshots of history that are fundamentally different than photos and film. It's not quite a perfect medium yet, but it's the closest method we have so far for capturing the feeling of "being there."