President Obama Makes Virtual Reality Debut in Yosemite Experience

Through the Ages-Still 1-H 2016
Courtesy of Felix & Paul Studios

The video, 'Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America's National Parks,' was released Thursday to honor the 100th anniversary of America's National Park Service.

No one has ever seen Yosemite quite like this. 

On Thursday, Facebook-owned virtual reality headset maker Oculus released an immersive experience from VR outfit Felix & Paul Studios that transports viewers into Yosemite National Park. But it's not just anyone giving viewers a tour. President Barack Obama makes his virtual reality debut in the 11-minute video, using it as an opportunity to share his message about the preservation of natural landmarks and humans' role in fighting climate change. 

Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America's National Parks was shot over Father's Day earlier this year as Obama traveled to Yosemite to celebrate the 100th anniversary of America's National Park Service. He was the first sitting president to visit the national park in over 50 years and, through the shooting of the VR experience in collaboration with National Geographic, became the first sitting president to participate in a VR film. 

The video was shot in about a week, says Felix & Paul content chief Ryan Horrigan, and Obama participated in two days of filming. Horrigan explains that much of the video, which shows stunning views of Yosemite that include El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and the Merced River, took cues from Obama's speech during his visit. 

The video is the latest in a series of portrait-esque VR videos from Felix & Paul that feature public figures — including LeBron James and President Bill Clinton — as subjects. "When you have a human subject, that's when you want to get closer," Horrigan says of how such subjects help to draw in viewers to a VR experience. 

Through the Ages is available Thursday on Samsung's Gear VR as well as through Facebook's 360-degree video viewing experience. 

Watch Facebook's 360-degree version here: