From Google VR, here’s your opportunity to step inside Buckingham Palace, the UK Monarch’s home. This is part of Google’s Expeditions project to rollout virtual reality experiences in classrooms and schools around the world.
The video here can be watched as a 360 video on YouTube. But the virtual reality experience is through Google Cardboard, their low-cost VR device. If you have Cardboard, try it out the way it was meant to be seen.
The VR Tour of the Palace
This is the first UK landmark to become part of the Expeditions project. The tour is a little less than ten minutes and takes you through selected areas of Buckingham Palace with commentary by the staff.
Here’s the description of the tour from the Royal Collection Trust:
The Buckingham Palace Expedition takes you on a tour of some of the Palace’s State Rooms, simulating the experience of walking through the rooms and seeing the works of art from the Royal Collection that furnish them. Starting at the Grand Staircase, students learn about the history of the Palace as a royal residence, before discovering how the State Rooms are used today by The Queen for official events.
The photography was done using a Google jump camera with 16 lenses. Stitched together, the scenes create an immersive experience. Obviously, this is not full virtual realty in the sense of walking through the space on your own. Your location and pathway is predetermined, but you are free to look wherever you like.
Down the road, someone will recreate the interior of Buckingham Palace for Oculus Rift or one of the more powerful VR headsets.
Why Buckingham Palace?
There’s an easy answer here, and it’s not due to the constant crowd of tourists at the front gate. The building was actually selected by school kids who are part of the Google Expeditions project. They wanted to see the Palace through virtual reality.
Here’s the Guardian’s account,
The palace was approached after pupils at Barclay primary school in Leyton, east London, which was part of a pilot scheme run by Google, were asked where in the world they most wanted to visit. They chose Buckingham Palace, and Google soon discovered it was consistently one of the top three destinations across the world chosen, along with the White House and outer space.
Google VR and the Expeditions Project
With Google’s announcement of a new chief for VR, the company is moving quickly to expand its presence in the VR arena. And clearly, the Expeditions project and Google’s Cardboard device will be a major part of this.
The Google Expeditions app includes more than 150 trips to extraordinary locations around the world, from the White House and Great Barrier Reef, to Mount Fuji and the Borneo rainforest. Buckingham Palace was selected in response to requests from thousands of schoolchildren, who chose it as the number-one destination that they wanted to visit.
Jessica Holland, the projects director and a former teacher, said:
Teachers really wanted a way to inspire and engage their students and bring the outside world into the classroom, so we have used that as our guiding principle to create Expeditions.
Buckingham Palace officials would not reveal if the Queen has tried out the tour with her own Google Cardboard. But 100’s of thousands of school kids have – and that’s what counts.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.