New View-Master: from 3D to virtual reality

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As a child I was fascinated with the 3D images produced by the View-Master. I spent hours gazing at foreign-looking formal Chinese gardens that conjured up images of a wonderful land far, far away.

Now, the same toy, reengineered for the digital age, will take a new generation of kids right into a virtual Chinese garden where they can immerse themselves in an imaginative and interactive environment.

Mattel has reinvented the toy the company introduced 75 years ago at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. In collaboration with Google the company has given it a twist that fits right in with today’s tech-hungry kids and their love of virtual reality. View-Master works with Google’s Cardboard virtual reality platform to make an immersive digital experience affordable – even via a toy for a child.The new View-Master does not operate on its own – it requires a compatible smartphone and app. The smartphone is placed inside the View-Master and the phone screen functions as the display area.

In its previous incarnation the toy had a carousel of 3D images that one viewed one by one through the View-Master. With the View-Master app, users look through the headset at their phone’s screen and see 3-D images either displayed on the real world (augmented reality) or full 3-D environments (virtual reality). Virtual reality provides an immersive experience, while augmented reality offers an overlay of the real world with extra information for users.

According to the press release, Mattel's new View-Master offers an easy-to-use and affordable platform that will enable users to take engaging field trips where they can explore famous places, landmarks, nature, planets and more in 360 degree ‘photospheres'. By pairing the View-Master's ‘experience reel' and app with an Android smartphone, kids will immediately experience an imaginative and interactive learning environment.

The new View-Master will be available in October 2015 and will retail for $30.00. A sample reel will come in the box, which includes a gallery of classic View-Master images, a space trip simulation and the chance to visit a “unique destination” in 360 degrees. Additional themed experience reels will cost $14.99.