As you have no doubt heard, Mattel wants to re-launch its classic View-Master toy with a fresh injection of virtual reality, Google Cardboard style.
This leverages the iconic red viewer from the late 50s that used disc-mounted photos, one for each eye, to create a magical 3D image. Now, of course, we don't need to mount photos on circular discs to make the magic work, instead just insert your Android smartphone.
Once holstered in the new View-Master your smartphone runs an app displaying an image for each eye. This keeps track with movement so that as you turn your head the image in front of you moves as well.
This will work with all Google Cardboard-compatible apps on the Google Play store as well as the Mattel-specific offering. Here the player-viewer uses replica View-Master picture discs to unlock content and view specific scenes. Simply line-up the view with a disc and press the big orange button on the headset to view that landscape.
Once within a particular scene you can view other more traditional static images for viewing in 3D. Each location has a bunch of them to discover as you look around.
Getting hands-on with the View-Master at the New York Toy Fair turned out to be more of a tech demo; in fact, picking the prototype up caused gasps from security and instructions to "put it down gently". Soon after a Perspex glass box was placed over it.
A demo of the Mattel experience running on a smartphone housed in the usual Google Cardboard setup was our fallback. It was interesting to see how reminiscent it was of the original 50s version, brought up to date. That same buzz of excitement and curiosity was piqued when selecting the different scenes.
The Alcatraz location was most impressive and offered a first-person perspective of the ferry station and locations within the prison. Within these views you could trigger further View-Master picture discs to bring up text and information.
Least impressive was the dinosaur content. This offered a straight computer-generated view of a prehistoric landscape with various dinosaurs within it. Markers again gave access to information about each dinosaur.
Holding the View-Master prototype in hand (however briefly) it felt of a similar weight and heft to the original. The orange slide-button on the side gave the device a slightly Fischer Price feel, while from the front it looked like many of the other VR goggles.
Perhaps the real test for the View-Master is not the technology or the branding - after all we pretty much know all about this - but how Mattel manages the content. Will this re-imagined experience be better than the original at sticking to its educational ethics, or will the scenes move in an ever more commercial direction, leveraging movies and toy brands?
Indeed, will today's kids find the View-Master experience as enticing in 2015 as it was in the 1950s? For that, we don't have the answer. But our nostalgic brains love it.
Mattel expects to release the View-Master in mid-October. Just in time for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens disc then? Yes please.
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