Talk about back to the future, the Mattel View-Master is making a return and its reincarnated form takes on the world of virtual reality.
The original View-Master first landed at the World’s Fair in 1939 and for the last 75 years, kids and adults alike have been able to enjoy the satisfying ‘clunk’ of that distinctive orange handle as they scroll through a disc filled with stereoscopic images from around the world.
With the arrival and subsequent evolution of Google Cardboard over the last year however, Mattel has decided that it’s time to bring the View-Master concept right up to date, with a new version of the system that uses a smartphone to help create both virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Doug Wadleigh, SVP and Global Brand General Manager for Toy Box at Mattel explained, “By working with Google’s Cardboard platform, we are now able to take that [3D world] experience even further, bringing the discovery and immersive viewing experience of the View-Master to the digital age. Combining technology and innovation with this classic toy gives kids an enhanced experience allowing for play opportunities not yet imagined through new, digitally curated content.”
As Wadleigh states, Mattel plans to produce original content alongside the existing Google Cardboard experience and even partner with other Google Cardboard developers. Google itself has also starting using its VR platform to entertain and inform kids at school through its Expeditions programs.
A working concept of the new View-Master made an appearance at the Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair in New York back in February and showcased the new viewer which features all the hallmarks of the classic View-Masters with updated aesthetics and a design that accommodates a smartphone. Early renders show what appears to be a Nexus 5 beside the View-Master, but it’s unclear which other smartphones the system is likely to support and up to what screen size can be used.
The View-Master discs also make a reappearance, but this time serve as a base for augmented reality experiences too. The concept demo shows a virtual San Francisco appearing on a disk laid on a table, serving as the gateway into the 360-degree photos similarly available on the Google Earth app within Google Cardboard.
Whilst this new View-Master already rekindles fond memories from our childhood, it also serves as an intriguing insight into the evolution of children’s toys and the increased reliance on electronics.
Mattel says the new View-Master will arrive in Autumn, later this year and retail for $29.99. Additional discs or ‘reel packs’ as the company’s calls them will be available for $14.99 each and the system requires that you use your own smartphone and download the View-Master app for the full experience. Excited? We certainly are.