The iconic ViewMaster is being brought to the 21st century. Mattel has teamed up with Google to release a new high-tech version.
So how does it work? It costs about $30. You stick your smartphone in it. And you scroll through the View-Master disc for discrete experiences. It runs on Google’s Cardboard VR software. One sample experience features 360 images of San Francisco with interactive information. Another shows a giant computer graphic moving dinosaur. This sounds like a fun and accessible VR experience for everybody.
Wired.com got a chance to try it out and interviewed Doug Wadleigh, senior vice president of global brands at Mattel. “…it’s our goal with the View-Master brand to make virtual reality accessible, easy to use, entertaining, educational, and family friendly.”
Like the old View-Master, this is aimed at kids – children over 7 to be precise. This is interesting since there has been some concern about the effects of VR on children’s visual development so Oculus and Samsung are covering their legal behinds with a warning saying their VR is for people 13 and older. As far as VRPorn.com is aware, there is no evidence suggesting such danger, and the latest VR technology is designed to be safe and comfortable for all.
But a real concern is that this experience is likely to be relatively poor VR. Since it has to work with a wide range of smartphones, and it uses software at the Android OS level, it cannot match the tightly integrated and controlled VR available from an Oculus device such as Gear VR or the coming Oculus Rift Consumer version. Still, for the low price tag and relatively modest ambitions, it should be a cool and successful product.
Mattel is looking at virtual reality for the long term. Mr. Wadleigh says, “Our goal … is to create the View-Master brand for the next 75 years using this new technology.”