Coolest toy of the year: Google and Mattel give the old View-Master an exciting VR twist

Google and Mattel on Friday unveiled a new View-Master toy infused with virtual-reality technology.

The Internet search giant and the toymaker plan to use Google’s Cardboard virtual-reality platform to offer virtual reality, augmented reality and “photospheric” images, using a smartphone as the display inside a plastic View-Master casing.

“We view this as just the beginning,” said Doug Wadleigh, a Mattel executive, adding that Google and Mattel will be testing and learning as they continue their partnership.

The companies plan to come out with the product in October, in time for the holiday season.

View-Master, a binocular-shaped Mattel toy created decades ago, was used to give kids 3D-like images by flipping through its picture reels. Early details of the new product are available at

For Mattel, the struggling maker of Barbie and Fisher-Price toys, the partnership could be a much-needed boost. The company has been posting softer revenue in recent quarters, while rivals Hasbro and Lego have been able to grow their sales even while more kids are using tablets and smartphones for games. Amid the difficulty, Mattel’s CEO stepped down last month.

Google has been a major player in augmented reality and virtual reality lately, last year unveiling the cheap, do-it-yourself virtual reality kit called Cardboard, which it has continued to develop with additional features and apps. Earlier this week, South Korean electronics maker LG unveiled a new promotion that offers a virtual-reality headset based on Cardboard — the VR for G3 — for free for new buyers of its G3 flagship smartphone.

Google’s Glass wearable headset project has faced a bumpier start, with government officials asking about privacy issues and Google eventually taking the product off the market, at least temporarily.

Those products are just one part of a growing list of virtual-reality and augmented-reality products being created, as tech firms work to add new technologies into those previously unrealized markets. The intent of virtual reality is to provide an immerse experience for gaming or other applications, while augmented reality offers an overlay of the real world to provide extra information for the user.

Author: Ben Fox Rubin

Source: Cnet