Second Story, NEA Develop A White House 'Wonderland'

Visitors to the 2014 White House Holiday tour get to enjoy 26 Christmas trees, a 300-pound gingerbread house and a marzipan reindeer. But new this year, Second Story, part of SapientNitro, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) are adding a high-tech experience to this annual tradition: an immersive, digital wonderland that celebrates how art and technology unite to create stories that inspire and delight.

The experience -- playing off of this year’s Holiday Tour theme, “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” -- invites visitors into a snowy landscape where they see their silhouettes represented as sparkling forms moving amid the snow. The presentation then shows close ups of falling snow animations that bring the glittering scene even more to life.

This project was designed to enable guests to become part of a landscape to which they directly contribute their own images and to have that experience integrated with the craft-oriented decor of the rest of the holiday display.

"This year, we have provided the ability to give the visitors a role in the holiday tour -- the opportunity to be part of it was where we got excited. While normal decor is defined from the start, this experience is always changing, responding to the audience," the agency stated.

That experience is part of a larger effort that included 3-D printed ornaments designed as a part of a nationwide competition and robotic versions of the first dogs, which use sensors to detect and respond to the movements of visitors as they pass by.

It’s the first time Second Story has worked with either the White House or the NEA. The NEA is the federal agency committed to supporting the arts nationwide and was the primary partner in the creation of the experience. As such, the NEA facilitated the entire process with Second Story and the White House. Ultimately, the experience has been donated to the NEA and will be part of their archive at the end of the Holiday Tour installation.

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