Sources: USA Today – By Edward C. Bing | All Things Michael
NEW YORK — The iconic View-Master stereoscopic photo viewer you had as a kid is catching up to the digital age. Mattel is teaming up with Google on an upcoming virtual reality-based View-Master that is infused with Google Cardboard VR technology. Mattel plans to make the announcement here Friday at the annual Toy Fair trade show.
The original View-Master dates back to the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
As many will fondly recall, the handheld 3-D viewer works with custom cardboard “reels” containing small color slides. Looking through the viewer, kids, the primary market, could see simulated 3-D images from movies and TV shows, or explore famous places all by flipping a lever. Mattel licensee Basic Fun sells the current View-Masters.
The Cardboard-based View-Master won’t start selling until the fall. It will share some design elements with vintage View-Masters, but instead of dropping in a reel, you slide an Android smartphone into the unit. View-Master will work with a custom Mattel app, as well as any Google Cardboard-compatible app, of which there are now about 200 in the Google Play Store.
View-Master reels will still play a key role. When new “experience reels” are placed on a surface, a person holding View-Master up to their eyes gets taken to an augmented reality environment based on the subject of the reel (solar system, dinosaurs, etc.).
I took in an early demonstration not using the new View-Master itself, which isn’t ready, but rather Google Cardboard. Using a San Francisco experience reel, icons of city landmarks popped up before me. I navigated to the dock and courtyard outside Alcatraz and stepped into a claustrophobic cell.
Mattel is not currently using video, but it did show off some simple animations — rain in the prison courtyard. There are light sound effects (seagulls over the Bay) that come through the phone.
Mattel plans to repurpose older View-Master content with the new viewer. Some 1.5 billion View-Master reels have been sold through the years, with more than 10,000 individual reels in the archives.
Doug Wadleigh, a senior vice president at Mattel, says the archives contain Star Wars and Star Trek images, as well as unpublished concert pictures from Michael Jackson and KISS.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 new viewer will cost $29.99 and include a sample reel. Additional three-pack reels will cost $14.99. You don’t need the reels to experience certain VR effects, but without them you won’t get the complete augmented reality treatment.
Google says dozens of companies are making Cardboard devices today, not all made of cardboard. “The whole goal of Cardboard was to make immersive virtual reality experiences as accessible as possible for everyone,” said Mike Jazayeri, product director for Google Cardboard. “This allows you to do it in a bite-sized (way). That is the most natural way for people, particularly kids, to experience this technology today.”
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