To make sure the new View-Master is something really special, the world-class toymaker is the first major brand to deliver a mass retail product using a blend of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. “We see a mix of VR and AR as the future of play,” explains Aslan Appleman, senior director for advanced concepts at Mattel. “Working with Vuforia and Google Cardboard offered the best of both worlds.”
To give the 76-year-old toy a futuristic makeover, Mattel took advantage of the growing momentum of Google Cardboard and the Vuforia™ mobile vision platform. “We wanted to create magical 360-degree experiences of places kids may never get to go to, like outer space,” explains Blake Knight, marketing manager for advanced concepts at Mattel. “With VR and AR, we can create entirely new levels of exciting gameplay as part of an integrated digital experience.”
All that’s needed to use the new-and-improved toy is the familiar View-Master viewer, an Experience Pack of image reels and a compatible iOS or Android smartphone. The fact that a powerful phone is part of the new View-Master ecosystem opened the door to leveraging AR in a way that adds an entirely new level of fun and interaction. And, since the smartphone slides right into the viewer, there are no additional screens to watch or touch—a digital world of new sights and scenes unfolds right before the viewer’s eyes.
Mattel collaborated with Google and its open Google Cardboard platform to infuse the iconic toy with VR capabilities. On the AR front, Mattel chose Vuforia because of its ease of use, reliability and market leadership. Also, Vuforia’s tight integration with Unity helped Mattel speed product development since the new View-Master was built on Google Cardboard, which is compatible with the Unity SDK.
“Vuforia is the leading AR platform on the market, known for its reliability, functionality and seamless integration with Unity,” comments Appleman. “Every developer we talk to is aware of, or has used, Vuforia, so we knew this was the smartest, most stable and scalable way to go.”
The fact that thousands of apps have been built using the Vuforia SDK also appealed to Mattel. “Vuforia is a proven platform with all the right developer tools and a well-defined roadmap,” adds Knight. “We know that Vuforia will only get better as we move forward with our own product line.”
Mattel is no stranger to Vuforia as its popular Hot Wheels Power Port apps also use Vuforia AR functionality. Still, the ability to integrate both AR and VR technology in a mass-retail product in just 10 months is a major accomplishment for Mattel. Traditional product manufacturing lifecycles for toy lines are 12-to-18 months, so the ability to re-launch a brand with advanced technology and three apps in less than a year was no small feat.
“It’s like riding the bullet train to aggressively go after this new play space and deliver a new product to retail this fast,” concludes Appleman. “Luckily, having great partnerships with Vuforia and Google, and a highly creative marketing strategy, helped us deliver View-Master in 21st Century style.”