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Google’s White House tour revolution

WASHINGTON (AP) — Can’t come to Washington? Couldn’t get a ticket to tour the White House? Don’t worry.

The White House, Google Maps and Google Arts & Culture launched a new virtual tour of the famous mansion on Friday, which is also National Civics Day.

With a computer or smartphone, users will be able to see all of the rooms that they would have seen had they been able to go on a public tour of the building.

The updated virtual tour is part of a mission by first lady Jill Biden to make the White House accessible to as many people as possible. Biden, a long-time community college professor, hopes teachers will use it to educate students about the White House and its history, said Elizabeth Alexander, her spokesperson.

“Not everyone can make the trip to Washington, DC, to tour the White House, so she’s bringing the White House to them,” Alexander said.

The tour is the first Google virtual tour of the White House to include audio captions for people with disabilities. The captions are narrated by White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo and pop up on the screen to offer viewers historical information on each of the rooms.

First lady Jill Biden speaks during a media preview Tuesday, October 24, 2023, in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, ahead of Wednesday’s State Dinner with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. PHOTO: AP

It is also Google’s first virtual tour of the White House to have Spanish translation.

The tour opens with a brief video of President Joe Biden and the first lady welcoming visitors, the same message that plays at the White House Visitors Centre for those who visit in person.

Google Street View technology was used to capture the imagery, starting at the East Wing Entrance and moving through all rooms on the public tour route, including the library, the China Room, the Green, Blue and Red rooms, the East Room and the State Dining Room.

The tour was created using Google Arts & Culture’s storytelling tool.

Ben Gomes, senior vice president of learning and sustainability at Google, said the mission of its arts and culture division is to open the world’s culture to people everywhere.

The tour is available on the White House website, as well as on Google Maps and the Google Arts & Culture page.

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