Remember Mattel’s View-Master? They were those chintzy, plastic binocular-shaped toys you would put up to your face to stare at stereoscopic 3D images provided by cardboard disk "reels." Today at the Toy Industry Associations’ Toy Fair in New York, the toymaker unveiled a collaborative effort with tech company Google to release a virtual reality upgrade to the classic toy.
Instead of peering at tiny photographs on a paper disk, you would place and then peer at an Android smartphone inside a plastic View-Master shell. Open the corresponding View-Master app or any Google Cardboard app available on the Google Play Store and you will be able to enter and explore virtual reality worlds as if you were really there.
Similar to virtual reality experiences offered by Facebook’s Oculus Rift, you will be able to simply turn your head to check out your virtual environment instead of having to click to the next reel like you did with View-Masters of the past.
"We developed Google Cardboard as an open platform to inspire companies like Mattel to rethink how to deliver new user experiences through technology," said Mike Jazayeri, product director for Google Cardboard. "Many of us on the Google Cardboard team grew up playing with View-Master, so we were excited to collaborate with Mattel and to see the viewer evolve and work with Google Cardboard."
Mattel will also offer "experience reel" cards that will offer exclusive content that will not be available on the Google Cardboard apps.
The new View-Master will debut this fall with an included experience reel sample and cost around $30. The sample reel will provide a demonstration of what will be possible on the new View-Master by including classic View-Master images, an interstellar journey and a space shuttle tour, all possible to explore in 360 degrees. Additional experience reel packs, which will feature themes like nature, adventure and science, will cost around $15 and include four themed reels per pack. Android phones of any size will be able to fit inside the new View-Master.
"The View-Master was first introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, giving consumers access to spectacular 3D worlds by simply selecting a reel and looking through a device," said Doug Wadleigh, SVP and global brand general manager for Toy Box at Mattel. "By working with Google’s Cardboard platform, we are now able to take that experience even further, bringing the discovery and immersive viewing experience of the View-Master to the digital age."
The technology-innovation combination gives kids an enhanced experience and allows for play opportunities not yet imagined through new, digitally curated content, Wadleigh said.
The 112th annual North American International Toy Fair trade show runs Feb. 14-17 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.