In the future, the world's great landmarks won't just have official websites and Wikipedia pages, but virtual reality tours that offer you an immersive taste of the real thing. Thanks to Google's new Expeditions Pioneer Program, we're seeing first-hand just how game-changing this tech will be.
The initiative is first and foremost dedicated to education, with Google sending teams to schools around the world to distribute virtual reality kits and offer "expeditions" to places of interest. Instead of donning expensive VR headsets like the upcoming Oculus Rift, students use a simple Android phone and a cheap Google VR cardboard enclosure. A teacher then guides classes as large as 50 people using a tablet, highlighting points of interest throughout the virtual experience.
While many of the 100 expeditions currently offered, such as 360-degree tours of Machu Picchu or caves in Slovakia, have been private to only the program's participants, Google is giving the rest of us a sneak peek. The search giant earlier this week released a guided tour of Buckingham Palace featuring "some of the Palace's state rooms and highlights works of art from the Royal Collection that furnish them."
While not as immersive as a headset, you can try the expedition to the queen's home in the video above. Just hold down your left mouse button or use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the camera.
In addition to Buckingham Palace, Google will also be rolling out a new VR expedition to the Great Barrier Reef narrated by none other than famed naturalist David Attenborough. The 89-year-old, whose new documentary on the natural wonder has received rave reviews, says the technology offers a new and exciting opportunity to expose younger generations to the world's wonders.
"Through virtual reality, I’m lucky enough to be able to share my experiences with audiences of all ages to allow them to explore and learn about these diverse ecosystems in a more immersive way.”
Want to try some more VR experiences from your own home? You can view a full selection of the titles available on YouTube –– from 360-degree views of puppies playing to a recreation of the Apollo 11 landing –– by jumping virtually here.