A Toy of the Past Gives Us A Glimpse of the Future

Many toys suffer the same fate, as quickly as they burst on to the scene, they are dismissed. However, the stereoscope has been able to withstand the test of time. Mattel, one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers, recently teamed up with Google, one of the world’s leaders in technology and innovation, to modernize the stereoscope and incorporate 21st century technology into the design to appeal to a new generation.

First created over 75 years ago, Mattel developed the View-Master to view photo reels. The later reels Mattel produced were targeted toward younger generations. The development of the toy stereoscope was significant because it allowed viewers to have depth perception, a result of the two reel system–one reel for each eye. After initial experiments with black and white reels, the View-Master began using the Kodachrome 16-mm color film reels. Viewing images with color and depth perception was a revolutionary development for the photography industry. However, with today’s advances in technology–digital SLR cameras, HD camcorders, and more–the toy stereoscope was on the verge of extinction.

As time passed, the future of the stereoscope looked bleak. Like so many technologies before it, the stereoscope appeared to be irrelevant. However, earlier this year Google and Mattel formed a partnership to modernize the toy stereoscope using the latest technology. While the initial View-Master allowed viewers to see 3D objects, the latest version will allow consumers to have a full 360-degree virtual reality experience that is nearly as good as being there. This experience is expected to compete with similar virtual reality products already on the market including VR systems from Facebook, Samsung, Sony, and Microsoft. The newest model of the View-Master incorporates the use of a smartphone as the scanner for the cards. The orange switch has changed functionality and now enables users to zoom in or learn more about the topic on the card, or image on the screen.

This concept, largely derived from the partnership between Google and Mattel, aims to reinvent a toy once enjoyed by parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents of millennials. While many are intrigued by the entertainment value from a toy that can deliver real world simulations, another important use is immersive education. Students will be able to use the reels and simulated experiences to gain more knowledge about people, places, and things in a “hands-on” learning environment. The newest model of the View-Master is set to debut in October 2015 for $30. While many fads and toys come and go, Mattel and Google’s partnership is proof that the past can meet the present and give us a glimpse of things to come in the future.