After plenty of hype, Mattel and Google announced Friday what they've been working on: a new View-Master that relies on Google's virtual-reality Cardboard platform.
The new device allows kids -- the target market -- to experience augmented or virtual reality with simulated 3-D images from films or television shows. The updated View-Master resembles a pair of ski goggles and is powered by an Android smartphone.
The toy, which will go on sale later this year, at $29.99, works with a Mattel app and any Google Cardboard-compatible app. There also are View-Master reels with themes that enhance the experience.
Friday's product unveiling followed days of heavy speculation about what Mattel and Google were cooking up. Some hoped Mattel, battered by a string of bad news, including a stock price that has fallen 30 percent in a year, would introduce a game-changing toy -- rattling the toy industry in the way the tech industry has become accustomed to.
But the immediate reaction was disappointment.
"Meh," said toy industry analyst Sean McGowan with Needham & Co. "It's what I thought -- a licensed Google Cardboard," he wrote in an e-mail. "It gives consumers affordable access to a VR-ish experience. But don't they have that already?"
Viewers that use Google Cardboard -- which allows for an immersive experience with a smartphone -- are made by several companies. Now, Mattel offers one.
"Absolutely not a game-changer," wrote Steph Wissink, a senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray. One hurdle Mattel faces with this product, Wissink said, will be convincing parents to hand over their smartphones for their kids to play with -- or buy another one.
Mattel will also need to create content for the View-Master app. "This will be new for them," Wissink wrote.
Friday's announcement represents a rebirth for the View-Master -- a toy that has been around since 1939. Generations of kids used the toy's cardboard photo wheels for stereoscopic viewing. But in recent years the View-Master has languished. Mattel even stopped making it in-house, licensing it out to The Bridge Direct, a company that specializes in making the forgotten, but beloved toys of yore, such as the Lite Brite and Fisher-Price's classic record player.