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Revived View-Master Is a Virtual Reality

By Richard Adhikari
Feb 13, 2015 1:30 PM PT
view-master

Remember the View-Master? You slotted a disc of slides called a 'reel' into the top, clicked the lever on the right, and were thrilled by the scenes before your eyes.

Introduced in 1939, the stereoscopic view has been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Although it's had a low profile for many years, and production was shifted to Mexico in 2000, it's still around.

Google and Mattel now are teaming up to revive and modernize the View-Master. Mattel on Friday announced a new version that works with Google Cardboard and Android smartphones.

Mattel will offer the new View-Master and a sample experience reel this fall, for US$30.

Additional experience reel packs, each featuring four themed experience reels, will be offered at $15. These reel packs will have themes such as nature, adventure destinations, and science.

Mattel will work with Google Cardboard developers to create new reels.

VR Emergence

Will there be a market for the new View-Master these days, when kids have either their own cellphones and tablets, or easy access to those devices, and can access free content from the Internet? Will parents be willing to fork out $30 for the View-Master and sample reel, and another $15 for other reel packs?

Perhaps.

"This was a product that was amusing in its time, and I can see why Google and Mattel might want to revive a permutation of it in this era of virtual reality, augmented reality, and photostatic images," Susan Schreiner, senior editor/analyst at C4 Trends, told TechNewsWorld.

VR and AR are in the early stages of development, and "this type of product at a $30 price point enables the masses to get a taste of it," she contended. "It's a bargain for a VR experience, even if the reels are $15."

The new View-Master "actually stands a chance," Schreiner said. "It will be interesting to see what type of content emerges from this Mattel-Google relationship and how else this [device] might technologically evolve."

On the other hand, "My first impression is, it's a day late and a dollar short," Eric Smith, digital consumer analyst at Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld.

"For the type of content you're talking about on the View-Master, they're going to have to bring the price down pretty sharply if development of the Internet is any barometer of how virtual reality is going to take off," Smith said.

What's in It for Google?

It's easy to see what Mattel might get out of a relationship with Google, but what's Google going to get out of the deal?

"For Google, it's another way to implement its Cardboard technology, in a form factor that might well appeal to a different or younger demographic," suggested Schreiner.

Indeed, the children's market is huge. In 2012, fast food companies alone spent $4.6 billion on advertising to children and teens.

Online advertising and stealth marketing techniques, such as embedding products in movies, online, and in video games, make children below the age of eight especially vulnerable because they don't have the cognitive skills to understand the intent behind such techniques, Sandra Calvert, chair of Georgetown University's psychology department, pointed out back in 2008.

Earlier this month, Google purchased Launchpad Toys, maker of the Toontastic storytelling tool for kids and the TeleStory AR video camera, both of which run on iOS.

Is Google ramping up for an invasion of the children's market? In addition to their own purchasing power, kids influence their parents' buying decisions and are the adult consumers of the future. As a result of these ventures Google certainly could sell ads, or at least aggregated demographic information, to marketers.

Mattel and Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story in time for publication.


Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.


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