Mattel’s venerable View-Master, the stereoscopic photo viewer so familiar to kids, is now using Google Cardboard Virtual Reality technology to bring life to those old 3D images.
The View-Master of yesteryear was a beautiful thing. By slipping in micro-reels from movies, far-off destinations, or from your very own life, users were able to see anything they wanted. The company says it has sold more than 1.5 billion reels for the View-Master over the years, and over 100 million View-Masters in total.
With the new version, just unveiled today at the World Toy Fair in NYC, Google and Mattel have fitted the View-Master to include a smartphone slot. Users can slip an Android phone into the plastic cover, and when paired with the View-Master companion app, choose from a host of viewing options.
This allows Mattel to bring an age-old toy into the digital future, offering a better quality experience and the opportunity to sell reels as in-app purchases through a smartphone. Mattel also says it will sell exclusive experiences through physical reels, finding, in the words of Mattel’s Doug Wadleigh, that kids like to have “a collectible they can keep in their room.” Plus, there are probably more than few nostalgic collectors who want something physical.
As for what this actually adds to the Cardboard platform, Wadleigh said, “Our physical product was really designed for the family. It’s kid-friendly.”
Wadleigh also described this as “just the beginning” of Mattel’s work with virtual reality, though he wouldn’t say whether that means extending the partnership with Google.
“We are focused on the here and now,” he said. “This is a wonderful partnership, because their capabilities and our capabilities and where we want to go with this technology are perfectly in tune.”
The new Cardboard-powered View-Master won’t begin selling until the fall (Wadleigh said they’re targeting October), and according to USA Today, it will cost $29.99, with extra “experience reels” selling for $14.99 for a pack of three.
Additional reporting by Anthony Ha