Struggling El Segundo toymaker Mattel Inc. is partnering with Google Inc. to bring back a retro children’s gadget with a high-tech upgrade.
The two companies plan to sell a new, virtual-reality version of the View-Master, the classic handheld photo viewer first introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair. It’s a big, high-tech move for Mattel, which has lately struggled as sales of its old-school toy brands – including the iconic Barbie doll – have slumped.
Mattel’s former chief executive Bryan Stockton resigned last month, just as the company reported that last year’s sales had fallen 7 percent from the year before, and that net income for the year had fallen a whopping 45 percent.
Following Stockton’s abrupt departure, interim Chief Executive Christopher Sinclair said Mattel would work “to deepen our connections with children and parents through expanded product innovation.”
Enter the View-Master. The binocular-like toy will get a sleek redesign that includes Google’s Cardboard technology, an open source virtual reality platform. It will sell for $29.99 beginning this fall, in time for the big holiday shopping season.
It will come preloaded with a reel that displays classic View-Master images, plus “a journey into space with a tour inside a space shuttle, and a chance to explore a unique destination in 360 degrees,” according to a Mattel press release.
Additional reels can be purchased for $14.99, with themes including nature, adventure destinations and science.