Mattel and Google upgrades View-Master into a virtual reality toy


The iconic View-Master stereoscopic photo viewer of 1939 which relied on sliding thin, cardboard disks containing stereoscopic images into a plastic device and looking through a view finder, is getting digital in 2015. Mattel and Google have teamed up on an upcoming virtual reality based View-Master that is infused with Google Cardboard VR technology. The launch happened on Friday after much anticipation the invitation created.


The new and upgraded View-Master resembles the more familiar toy of the mid-20th century, with red plastic body built and a side lever for switching between images. But rather than disks containing static images, the View-Master of 2015 uses an Android smartphone and gives users a 360-degree view of animated environments.

The viewing gear will work with a custom Mattel app and any app compatible with Google’s low-end virtual reality headset, Cardboard. Mattel will also sell separate reels that, once the phone detects, will launch the user into an augmented reality experience based on the content of the reel. The pack of three includes San Francisco, Solar System and Dinosaur Adventure.

The updated device does not use video for now, but it shows simple animations like rain in the prison courtyard, light sound effects (seagulls over the bay) that come through the phone. Mattel has planned to re-use some of the 10000 plus reels from the archive of the older model for the new device.


Doug Wadleigh, a senior vice president at Mattel, says the archives contain Star Wars and Star Trek images, as well as unpublished concert pictures from Michael Jackson and KISS. “You might see some of that,” he says. “We’re creatively trying to figure out ways to use the old imagery in ways that enhance the new experience.”

The cardboard-based View-Master is expected to hit the markets until fall. Since it is plastic built, the device is only $29.99 which includes a sample reel. Additional three-reels pack would cost $14.99. Though reels are not needed to experience certain VR effects, without them one may not get the complete augmented reality treatment.

It is quite evident what Mattel may get out of its relationship with Google, but what is it for Google? It could be assumed that Google is trying to grab a portion of the huge children’s market. With the amount of money the ad agencies pour-in to capture the children’s market and kids influencing power on buying decisions, Google could certainly sell ads and expand its market much more. The low-end virtual reality headset View-Master seems to serve the purpose for Google to take its first step forward.