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Google Cardboard app offers magical mystery tour of Beatles' recording studio

Google's latest foray into the arts world sees it open up the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in virtual reality.

Google's new virtual-reality app, Inside Abbey Road, lets you be the Starr.

On any given day, the area near the zebra crossing outside London's Abbey Road Studios is chockablock full of tourists waiting in turn to re-create the iconic cover shot of the famous Beatles album.

Now those tourists can wander into the recording facility, take a seat behind a drum kit and make like Ringo.

Well, sort of.

In a blog post Wednesday, Google unveiled a new virtual-reality app for Android phones that lets people take a virtual tour of Abbey Road alongside Giles Martin, son of recently deceased Beatles producer George Martin. All they need is the app and one of Google's Cardboard VR headsets.

With Facebook's Oculus Rift headset now on sale, many industry watchers expect the VR experiences available in our homes to step up a notch. But with high prices and niche-gaming features, such headsets won't be available to all. Though they offer more-basic immersion and less-thrilling experiences, it's headsets like Cardboard that may well bring VR into the mainstream.

Google's approach to virtual reality has been all about accessibility. Not only has the company made its headsets affordable and compatible with multiple phones, it's also using the medium to open up cultural institutions, from Buckingham Palace to the Guggenheim, to those who may never be able to experience them in person. Abbey Road is another example.

As well as the official tour, you'll also be able to freely explore the studios. This means discovering the mirrored drum room and sitting in on a recording session with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Google's Abbey Road Studios app for Android is available now on Google Play, and the company says an iOS version will be coming soon.