Mattel And Google Revive Vintage Toy With Virtual Reality View-Master

View-Master is back, and will show us a new way to look at 3-D images. Mattel and Google have swapped ideas to recreate one of the best children’s toys of all time. Using the idea behind Google Cardboard, the new View-Master will allow kids to experience interactive, educational, and immersive scenes through virtual and augmented reality. No need to insert a cardboard reel, the new View-Master inserts you into an experience that provides sound effects, moving images, and informational pop-ups.

Like it or not, the classic toys of our childhood are getting a technological overhaul. Barbie is talking, Simon can be played with a swipe of the finger, and now View-Master is one more way our kids will chalk up screen time. I may sound like a curmudgeon, but this new technology overshadowing my childhood memories makes me a bit sad. I know, I know…Phones used to have cords and computers used to fill up rooms—advances in science, medicine, and technology are wonderful things. Even as I stomp around a bit, asking no one in particular what this world has come to, I am impressed with the coolness and sophistication of the toys our children play with.

The new View-Master seems pretty awesome. Over 75 years ago Mattel introduced us to stereoscopic images using miniature film reels, a hand-held viewer, and a little finger power as we pushed down the lever to change the image. The experience was magical and a little mysterious as children were immersed in stories and locations only they were a part of.

Mattel now wants us to “view what’s possible” with their updated version of the View-Master. Children ages seven and older can now experience 360-degree field trips to the moon, Paris, and San Francisco. The viewing is still done with a plastic, hand-held viewer, but, very much unlike the original, the new version also needs a smart phone, apps, and View-Master Experience Reels. 

Mattel is using the design and concept introduced by Google and the Google Cardboard Project. Google Cardboard gives everyone who has a smart phone an affordable way to experience virtual reality. With a foldable piece of cardboard, which has eyeholes and asymmetrical biconvex lenses, velcro, and a magnet, users can download the Cardboard App to their phone, slip the phone into the cardboard viewer and immerse themselves in one of hundreds of different virtual reality settings. You cass see what that looks like here.

Mattel created a plastic, futuristic looking viewer which has all of the features of Google Cardboard but without the DIY aspect. You or your child can use the Cardboard apps or point your phone and viewer at the Experience Reel to travel through time, under water, or across the country. When the View-Master is pointed at one of the Reels, a 3-D image will pop up to create an augmented reality. Mattel executive, Doug Wadleigh said that even though the disks are not necessary to use the new View-Master, some collectors and fans of nostalgia will enjoy having them.

Mattel is also banking on the growing trend to use digital technology to educate our children. Because it is affordable and easy to use, age-appropriate apps can make learning interactive and fun. Instead of just learning about Alcatraz Island, you can actually go there with the use of 3-D, computer generated environments. By looking up and down or turning around, a child can visit Alcatraz and see what it looks inside of a prison cell. They can also move their head to a specific spot in the scene, click the button on the side of the View-Master, and read facts about what they are looking at.

You win, technology. Short of being able to actually visit Alcatraz, the moon, or the bottom of the ocean, this seems to be the next best thing. The original View-Master still holds a very special place in my heart, but it can’t really compete with the coolness of virtual reality. And just like it excited our imaginations 75 years ago, View-Master and Mattel are doing their part to keep exciting our children’s imaginations for many more years to come. The reality is that toys are changing. Get on board or dust off those childhood toys in your attic and reminisce about simpler times.

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