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Celebrate ‘America’s best idea’ with President Obama on a VR tour of Yosemite

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act on August 25, 1916. Now, as the National Park Service turns 100, President Obama is celebrating by offering a free tour of Yosemite National Park in virtual reality.

“Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks” is a collaboration between the POTUS, Oculus, Felix & Paul Studios, and National Geographic. The journey is available on the Oculus Store for Samsung Gear VR and will be coming soon to Rift. A 360-degree version is also available on Facebook.

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On the 11-minute tour, Obama bring viewers on his trip to the park over Father’s Day weekend. He visits landmarks including El Capitan, the Cathedral Rocks, and Yosemite Falls, discusses the park’s history with a ranger, and speaks to a crowd of hikers about the importance of conservation. Along the way, POTUS also takes the opportunity to address climate change.

“We know that protecting and preserving places like Yosemite and all of our national parks is more important today than ever,” Obama says. “As we look ahead to the coming years and decades, changing climate and rising temperature means birds and mammals who’ve made their home here at Yosemite for thousands of years are moving to escape the heat … Rising seas can destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades. Even threaten the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. That is not the America I want our kids to grow up in. That’s not the legacy that any of us should want to leave behind.”

This is the first VR experience featuring President Obama, according to an Oculus blog post. And, although that sounds like self-promotional hype, it demonstrates how well VR is doing as it jostles to become a valuable and valued medium.

National parks have been called America’s best idea. “Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst,” wrote Wallace Stegner who first gave the parks this honor. One hundred years, 59 parks, and nearly 60 million acres later, its hard to disagree.