Mattel to partner with Google on updated View-Master

Mattel is teaming up with Google to bring the View-Master into the 21st century, the toy company announced Friday.

The original View-Master, introduced in 1939, was an attempt at a binocular 3-D virtual reality headset. It relied on sliding thin, cardboard disks containing stereoscopic images into a plastic device and looking through a viewfinder.



An earlier version of this story said Mattel created the original version of the View-Master. The original version was created by the Sawyer company. Mattel did not become involved until 1997.


The updated View-Master resembles the more-familiar toy of the mid-20th century, complete with red plastic body and a side lever for switching between images. But instead of disks containing static images, the View-Master of 2015 uses an Android smartphone and gives users a 360-degree view of animated environments.


The View-Master will work with a custom Mattel app, as well as any app compatible with Google’s low-end virtual reality headset, Cardboard. El Segundo-based Mattel will also sell separate reels that, once the phone detects, will launch the user into an augmented reality environment based on the subject of the reel (examples include San Francisco, Dinosaur Adventure, Solar System).

With more than 10,000 reels from older models of the View-Master in its archives, Mattel plans to repurpose some of them for the updated device.

The View-Master is the latest low-end virtual reality headset positioned as an affordable alternative to the yet-to-be-released high-end headsets from Oculus VR and Sony. It joins Google’s Cardboard — a VR headset actually made of cardboard and bi-convex lenses, and Samsung’s mobile-powered Gear VR.

The new View-Master will go on sale this fall for $29.99 and include a sample reel. Additional three-pack reels will cost $14.99.

Twitter: @traceylien