Before I dive into the View Master VR viewers I’d like to talk about the confusion around age ratings with VR headsets. The Oculus Rift and Go, Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream headset have a 13+ age rating. Sony’s PlayStation VR has a 12+ rating. HTC VIVE only states that it is not designed to be used by children. However, the view master VR headsets have a 7+ age rating. So are these age ratings for health and safety reasons or is something else going on here.
Back in 2015, Oculus CEO at the time, Brendan Iribe stated “We put a warning on right when you put it on and the age of 13 was something that made a lot of sense when we became a part of Facebook, their age is 13 as well. And so, we just felt let’s start at 13”. Of course, the 13-year-old requirement to be on Facebook has nothing to do with health and safety. Rather it is because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandate that websites that collect information on users (like Facebook) aren't allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. Also, the HTC VIVE warning that the headset is not designed to be used by children is also correct as most headsets are designed to be worn by adults and may not provide a good fit for younger children. While I am not a doctor and I am not giving out medical advice the view master website states, “Because of its text-based visuals, View-Master® VR is designed for kids 7 and up. We have worked with an ophthalmologist to ensure that View-Master® VR is optically safe for use by children. As with all screen time, we recommend parents follow pediatric guidelines to determine age appropriate viewing times.”.
The View Master VR viewers are essentially plastic “Google Cardboard” type viewers that hold a smartphone in place, using its CPU, screen and sensors to give a VR experience. The View master VR viewers come in 2 designs, first is the original “View Master Starter Pack” version. This version also has a “Batman” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” themed variations. (different packaging and outward appearance but essentially the same headset) Now before we get too much further I’m going to say that this version has a fundamental design flaw, the latch mechanism that is supposed to keep the viewer closed never worked properly. There is a double hinge that allows the headset to accommodate larger smartphones, but it would constantly cause the latch to pop open. So, I’m not going to cover or recommend you get the View Master Starter Pack.
The second superior model is the “View Master Deluxe VR Viewer”. It is a complete redesign with a with a new secure latch, and spring-loaded adapter that holds your phone firmly in place. It also has larger lenses, a headphone jack and focus adjustment missing from the other version. The only assembly necessary is to insert the headphone connector to the side of the viewer that corresponds with the location of the headphone jack on your smartphone. Most recent Android and iPhones will work with the view master, for a complete list check any of the online product descriptions. Overall it is a very sturdy unit and should stand up to a fair amount of abuse, the View Master website states, “THE VIEW-MASTER® VR VIEWER IS NOT A PROTECTIVE CASE. The View-Master® viewer conforms to Mattel’s standard kid-safe drop tests.”.
You will notice that there is no head strap on the viewer and this is by design. Google Cardboard’s best practices guide explains, “When the user holds the Cardboard with their hands against the face, their head rotation speed is limited by the torso rotational speed (which is much slower than the neck rotational speed). This reduces the chance of “VR sickness” caused by rendering/IMU latency and increases the immersiveness in VR”. Basically, if you turn your head too quick, and your phone lags it might make you nauseous and needing to hold it to your face prevents this.
The View Master Deluxe VR Viewer comes with a preview disk (it’s look is like the old view master film disks) that lets you unlock sample content from any of the larger educational Experience packs like “Nat Geo Wildlife” or “Discovery Underwater”. Full content of an experience pack is available by purchasing in store/online or by making an in-app purchase.
Beyond the View Master software, there is a whole world of educational and entertainment experiences available for you and your child to try out. The YouTube app, as an example has a great amount of 360 Video and VR Video (3D 360 Video) and the absolute best way to experience it is inside a VR Viewer. Tap the screen when you have a 360/VR video up and tap the Goggle Carboard icon to put into split screen VR mode for viewing in the view master.
You can even view 360/VR video you made yourself with a camera like the Vuze or Vuze+. There are a lot of options when it comes to 360/VR video viewers for smartphones, and it all comes down to what app works well with your phone. I had good luck with the “VaR's VR Video Player” for Android. It’s free and can play videos and static images in most of the current formats. You do have to specify what format the file is in, but it’s better than having to rename files like some of the apps I looked at.
Once you find a player that works for your phone connect it up via USB to your computer and drop your 360/VR videos into the camera folder of your smartphone. (On Android this is Phone/DCIM/Camera) Launch the app, navigate to your video, put it in the View Master and enjoy 360/VR video the way it was meant to be experienced with your head in the middle of the action.
About the Author:
Rob Crasco is an independent Virtual Reality, Virtual World & 360 Video Influencer / Developer / Consultant. Background in computer science and marketing, worked for AT&T, Ziplink, News Corp, and iBasis. Decade of experience in virtual worlds, top 10 rated VR & AR influencer.