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Up close with Mattel's new VR-infused View-Master (pictures)

Mattel and Google unveil the new View-Master, bringing the toymaker's 75-year-old stereoscope into the Digital Age using Google's virtual-reality Cardboard technology.

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Ben Fox Rubin
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
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A new View

About 75 years after the introduction of the first View-Master, Mattel has unveiled the newest version -- just in time for New York's annual North American International Toy Fair.

Mattel plans to start selling the new View-Master in October. The prototype shown here isn't a working model.

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Visiting new places and spaces

The new toy can take viewers on immersion tours of all kinds of new venues, similar to the old View-Master, which showed images of landmarks and scenery.

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Google's newest Cardboard partner

The View-Master is the latest example of Google's virtual-reality Cardboard technology in new apps and devices. Earlier this week, LG announced a promotion to use a Cardboard-based headset for its flagship G3 smartphone.

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Inside the demo room

At an event in New York City on Friday, Google and Mattel gave reporters an early look at the new View-Master.

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A smartphone inside

With a working prototype of the View-Master not yet available, Mattel used a Google Cardboard headset -- which is made of cardboard -- to show off View-Master's capabilities. Here, a Nexus 5 smartphone is used as the display, offering a stereoscopic view of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

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The new reels

The old View-Master used circular reels of images showing landscapes or scenery. When looked at through a new View-Master, a menu of 3D images pop up out of the new reels, which then take users to 360-degree pictures.

These reels aren't actually necessary -- you could instead just download new images -- but they offer a useful nod to the View-Master's long history.

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A look inside

Viewing inside the Cardboard prototype, I could look all around me and click through to different views of places, like when I jumped from outside Alcatraz to inside a cell on the former island prison.

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Taking a virtual tour

Here is CNET's Bridget Carey giving the View-Master prototype a try.

Several of the new reels for the new View-Master have pictures from decades past that were used in older versions of the toy, such as the solar-system reel that includes old pictures of astronauts on the moon.

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A historical look

The View-Master was first introduced at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.

A series of displays at Friday's event show how many iterations the View-Master went through over the decades.

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The next step for the toy

While View-Master may have been a must-have item decades ago, it hasn't been of much interest for today's kid. Mattel is hoping to change that with the new View-Master.

This new product may just be the start. The company plans to use more technology in its products to keep its toys and board games fresh in the Digital Age.

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