Mattel's Google Cardboard-based View-Master turns the classic picture discs into augmented-reality markers.
I have fond memories of the original Viewmaster from the 70's; it was the only way you could directly look at the sun !
I hope Virtual Reality devices take off! Of course people would need to be safe and all of that business, but, what would the future look like? Maybe like this?
Or maybe this?
Or how about this?
Mattel is rekindling interest its classic View-Master toy brand by incorporating virtual reality.
The company today announced a collaboration with Google to make a new View-Master based on the Google Cardboard platform. It still uses those memorable picture discs with the squares around the edge like the old View-Master, but not in a way you might expect.
The new View-Master is a smartphone holder with lenses that separate the inserted device's screen into two images for the user. While it's a Google Cardboard device, it's actually a plastic headset that looks very similar to the classic View-Master, if it was crossed with a Samsung Gear VR.
The View-Master works with all Google Cardboard-compatible VR apps on the Google Play store, including a Mattel-specific View-Master app planned for the device. It won't rely entirely on app downloads, though. Mattel has reimagined the View-Master picture discs as augmented-reality markers and downloadable content tokens. Instead of inserting them into the View-Master, they can be placed on a flat surface and the View-Master app will scan them and load content into the View-Master, using the discs as positional anchors.
The plastic View-Master device Mattel had on display at a Friday press event was a mock-up, but the company set up demos of the app and the picture discs with conventional Google Cardboard setups. I tried three programs on the device: a tour of Alcatraz, a virtual look at dinosaurs, and a view of the moon landing.
The Alcatraz tour was the most elaborate of the demos. It was a series of photo-spheres that gave me a first-person view of the ferry station to Alcatraz and several locations within the prison itself, based on 360-degree photos similar to those taken for Google Street View. Every view had markers shaped like View-Master picture discs that brought up text boxes giving information about the prison or advanced the tour to the next location. Because the tour was based on photo-spheres, it was very immersive and felt like a natural progression of the original View-Master slides.
The moon landing simulation was less elaborate, and consisted of two computer-generated views of the moon linked by similar markers. Obviously Mattel and Google couldn't send Street View cameras to the moon, so a recreation made sense. The scene showed the lunar lander and the American flag along with the gray surface of the moon and the blackness of space. Additional markers in the scenes brought up photographs of the moon landing, taken from historical records.
The dinosaur content was the simplest, offering another computer-generated view of prehistoric Earth with a few dinosaurs around me. Markers brought up text boxes that gave information about dinosaurs, like the information boxes in the Alcatraz tour.
The new View-Master shows a great deal of potential as an accessible infotainment virtual reality device for kids. Mattel hasn't announced specific release or pricing information, but it plans to ship the View-Master around October, with an expected retail price of approximately $30 for the device itself and $15 for packs of four picture discs.