All images courtesy of Nexus Studios
The White House is going high-tech for the holidays with an augmented reality greeting card that transforms a dollar bill into an animated version of 1600 Pensylvania Avenue. Created in partnership with Nexus Studios' Interactive Arts division—the same folks who created an AR cover for the New Yorker back in May—the AR app called _1600 _prompts you to point your phone at George Washington's head, which cues an animated version of the White House to sprout from the bill. The experience offers an inside look at the POTUS' abode through the seasons, and it's narrated by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
"We received an email from White House inviting us to discuss making an AR project together," Luke Ritchie, the head of Interactive Arts at Nexus Studios, tells The Creators Project. "They were inspired to see how they could use the technology to tell their own story. They were impressed by the visual sophistication that was now possible and likewise needed a platform that could be easily viewed by millions of people without expensive hardware or difficulty."
The Nexus team worked with the White House Historical Association and the Executive Office of the President to realize the project. The story itself follows a year in the White House, season by season, beginning with President Obama arriving in a helicopter and traversing events like the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn with the First Lady, along with press conferences in the Rose Garden.
The charming style of the animation is thanks to Nexus Studios director Jack Cunningham and was designed and built in 3ds Max and Unity. The idea was to keep the storytelling as "rich and playful as possible" with the concept of exploration being prominent. Users can rotate 360 degrees around the AR display and pause and zoom in and out to see more detail and search for hidden easter eggs. Viewers can open up the Oval Office, for instance, and send Secret Service agents onto the roof, along with many more surprises.
"We learned that the President's administration has worked tirelessly to open up the White House to be a more transparent place, from festivals on the South Lawn to allowing people to explore its rooms through Google Street View, there's been a strong desire to remind the American people that this building is the People's House, first and foremost," Ritchie notes. "And we knew the hope for the project was to try to educate and inspire the youngest Americans to learn more about the White House's role in our democracy—and so we wanted to underpin the story with that notion of transparency—and then in that Nexus sort of way, try to make you smile."