Did you know that Mattel‘s View-Master, the 76-year-old stereoscopic slide viewer, is still around? Did you hear Google‘s announcement last summer of Cardboard, a simple cardboard apparatus that turns smartphones into virtual reality headsets? Are you wondering why those two sentences have even a single thing to do with one another? Google and Mattel just announced that the toy manufacturer’s View-Master is receiving a makeover thanks to the search giant’s Cardboard. Available this fall for $30, the new viewer will combine the best of both worlds. Like Cardboard, it will serve as a receptacle for a smartphone. Like View-Master, it will use familiar-looking reels to bring you into whole new worlds. But just how it will do that is where things get wacky.
Instead of sliding a reel into the new View-Master, you’ll lay it on a flat surface and then “view” it through the lens of your phone. The reels (available in packs of 3 for $15) contain virtual reality triggers that launch immersive worlds, which are augmented with computer animations and text layovers. The reels are a little weird since they’re not technically necessary — everything contained in the individual reels will be available for purchase in a View-Master app — but it’s a nice bit of high tech throwback that parents will appreciate.
That does raise the question of who the new View-Master is really for. After all, you might think virtual reality is the coolest thing since the remote control, but your kid’s probably going to grow up in a world where our smartphones are replaced by interactive contact lenses or something. If nothing else, the Google/Mattel partnership might ensure that View-Master seems delightfully hokey and out of date for another 76 years.