Walmart stores will begin stocking the revamped View-Master at the beginning of December, completing a months’ long, national retail rollout. The latest iteration of the 77-year-old toy will have smartphone technology to allow users to “travel” to far-off locales, such as famous cities, the depths of the ocean, and even outer space.
And all for the convenient, affordable price of $29.99.
This new toy is interesting for a couple of reasons, besides the fact that it’s making a comeback. The new View-Master is the first foray into virtual reality for kids, according to Aslan Appleman, Mattel’s product lead on the View-Master project. It’s the first time a VR gadget’s target audience isn’t the adult techie demographic.
In order to make the new View-Master a kid-friendly VR device, Mattel kept its new View-Master handheld. There are no headphones or straps. That way, parents — the ones paying for the toy — won’t have to worry that their kids will spend all of the free time in the digital world.
Mattel also positioned the new View-Master as an educational toy. The company worked with National Geographic and NASA to create realistic content for its Wildlife and Space “experience packs,” which contain a reel (much like the old View-Master disks) with a QR code in the center. Aiming the viewer at this code launches the adventure. Not only does the View-Master provide VR animations, but also pop-up text boxes featuring explanations about the environments.
Of course, as is the case with many new pieces of technology, Google — the masters of Internet marketing — had a major role in the new View-Master’s creation. In June 2014, it debuted its Cardboard viewer with the aim of encouraging “developers to build the next generation of immersive digital experiences and make them available to everyone.”
When Richard Dickson, Mattel’s chief operating officer, saw Cardboard for the first time, he realized it was View-Master’s next step.
“The reinvention of this classic toy illuminates the power of technology in the hands of creative minds,” says Colby Richards, Managing Partner, Brown Box Branding Seattle. “Utilizing the synergistic tools of design and digital marketing, we find another fantastic example of an old brand positioned to flourish in a new era.”
Only time will tell though whether or not the new toy is popular, or even sells well this holiday season. Then again, the View-Master hasn’t withstood 77 years of toy evolution for nothing.