Moeko Noda

An Old Toy Enters Virtual Reality: View-Master

Moeko Noda

An old toy has made a major comeback—in virtual reality.

Last year, the toy manufacturer Mattel teamed up with Google Cardboard, Discovery, National Geographic, Vuforia and Littlestar to bring View-Master, a 1939 stereoscope toy that shows 3D images from slide reels, right into the twenty-first century.

The makeover expanded what the original version made possible, which was to peer into a whole new world right in front of your eyes. In the new version of View-Master, the images shown through the lens are not just 3D images, but the world in virtual reality. The landscape has expanded, and its frontiers know no bounds.

Here‘s how it works: instead of inserting physical slides into the View-Master like the way users did in the older version, you insert a smartphone into the plastic goggle-like virtual reality viewer. With the View-Master app downloaded and running on the smartphone, you direct through the viewer to the View-Master “experience reel,” which looks like a coaster laced with tiny windows each representing a different landscape.

And just like that, you are transported 360 degrees into wherever the reel is programmed to represent. Depending on which of the four kits you choose, you can have a range of experiences. You can visit the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, the Tower of London and other destinations across the globe. You can observe various wildlife scenes, such as the animals in the Australian Outback. With the underwater kit, you can plunge into the ocean with penguins and take snapshots of tropical fish. With the space kit, you can even travel to infinity and beyond.

Mattel’s View-Master viewer is available for purchase, but the experience works with other virtual reality viewers as well. Google Cardboard, one of View-Master’s official partners, is a viewer made out of—you guessed it—cardboard. It comes with folding instructions and is easy and affordable to use. By simplifying the technology, Google has made virtual reality accessible for many; now, their pairing with Mattel has made the immersive world of virtual reality as accessible to kids as the View-Master was more than 70 years ago.

Did You Know?
The nostalgic design of the 1939 version of the View-Master isn’t fully lost in its reimagined virtual reality headset. The device is still mainly comprised of red plastic and still features the iconic orange plastic lever on the side.


Photo Credit: ThePassenger

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