Yes, you can have a View-Master with your virtual reality

The re-vamped View-Master for VR from Mattel, and one of the scenic discs that accompany it
The re-vamped View-Master for VR from Mattel, and one of the scenic discs that accompany it (image: Mattel Inc.)

Alongside all the the news and hype surrounding VR in 2014, there were a lot of witty / dour comments relating to the old Mattel View-Master system, and how people would prefer to have that, rather than strapping a plastic brick to their forehead.

Well, it looks like the laugh might be on those cracking such jokes, as Mattel have announced that the View-Master brand is to be revamped as a virtual reality headset system utilising Google Cardboard software.

Announcing the move at the New York City Toy Fair, which opened to the public in – wait for it – New York City on February 14th, 2015, Mattel’s Senior Vice President of Global Brands, Doug Wadleigh said the aim of the partnership is “to create the View-Master brand for the next 75 years,” and offer kids the chance to have “a collectible they can keep in their room.”

The iconic View-Master has been through many iterations during it 75-year history
The iconic View-Master has been through many iterations during it 75-year history, but has always had the same basic functionality (image: doyouremember.co.uk)

The original View-Master, which incredibly celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014, was once a staple part of many children’s toy boxes. With it, kids could load circular reels of 3D images into a hand-held, binocular-like device with a lever on the side which is used to flip through the pictures, providing the user with a stereoscopic views of landmarks, scenery, historic events, and so on.

The new system announced at the NYC toy fair retains much of this original functionality. It comprises a hand-held  device into which a mobile phone running the Cardboard software can be fitted.

Like the original, it is designed to use special scene “reels”; only rather than being placed in the unit, the disc-like reels are placed on a flat surface in front of the user. When viewed through the device, they generate AR-style navigational environments which the user then “enters”. This allows, for example, the key locations in a virtual “tour” to be visualised AR-style, and then individual locations within the tour selected and viewed immersively, with additional information on sights and locations being provided by pop-up text boxes.

In actual fact, the “reels” are optional, if people prefer, they will be able to download the immersive experiences directly to their smartphone for us with the new View-Master. However, the reels are being provided to maintain the “collectible” aspect of the original View-Master system, which Mattel see as an additional selling-point for the system. They plan to grow the range of available reels over time to provide many different types of experience, some of which – in a possibly canny move – might be built around the company’s other products.

For example, Mattel is already talking in terms of a video shot from within one of their “Hot Wheels” toy cars as it races through a “Hot Wheels” track, putting the person watching “behind the wheel” of the car.

Commenting further on the re-vamp, Wadleigh said, “The View-Master was first introduced in 1939, giving consumers access to spectacular 3D worlds by simply selecting a reel and looking through a device. By working with Google’s Cardboard platform, we are now able to take that experience even further, bringing the discovery and immersive viewing experience of the View-Master to the digital age.”

Google are also delighted with this further move into a broader VR presence for Cardboard, which comes hard on the heels of LG launching their VR for G3 virtual reality headset. Commenting on the partnership with Mattel, which doesn’t include any licensing arrangement or revenue sharing for Google, Cardboard Product Director Mike Jazayeri, said in a press release, “We developed Google Cardboard as an open platform to inspire companies like Mattel to rethink how to deliver new user experiences through technology. Many of us on the Google Cardboard team grew up playing with View-Master, so we were excited to collaborate with Mattel and to see the viewer evolve and work with Google Cardboard.”

The new View-Master is due to go on sale from autumn 2015 at a suggested price of $29.99 (£19.50) for the headset (sans smartphone), and the company hope to have it available for both Android handsets and iPhones. One image disc will be supplied with the device, and additional discs will be sold at $14.99 (£9.75) each.

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SL project updates 7/2: TPV Developer meeting

The Centaurs' Hall - blog post
The Centaurs’ Hallblog post

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, February 13th. A video of the TPV Developer meeting is included at the end of the article (my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding), and any time stamps contained within the following text refer to both it and the TPV Developer meeting.

SL Viewer

Avatar Hover Height (AHH)

[09:17] It had been expected that the Avatar Hover Height project viewer (version 3.7.25.298129) might have been replaced by a release candidate during the course of the past week. However, some of the reported issues are still being worked on, most of which are related to the code which tries to keep an avatar’s feet in contact with the ground, and problems which can occur in certain extreme cases. It is now anticipated that the viewer will be updated to a release candidate viewer once these issues have been fixed.

 Viewer Build Tools

[14:37] It had been hoped that this viewer would be updated with a release candidate version prior to the long weekend no change window (see below), however it didn’t clear QA in time. Unless something significant happens on the QA side, this viewer should therefore reach release candidate status some time during week 8 (Week commencing Monday, February 16th).

However, it is anticipated it will undergo further updates while at RC status, and so therefore is unlikely to progress directly from RC to the de facto release viewer in a short space of time. One such update might be to include various patches to further simplify the build process, notably for windows, for example.

Graphics Settings and Avatar Rendering

[19:49] This work is a combination of STORM-2082, which allows users to create and save multiple graphics settings defaults, and internal work carried out by the lab to help users improve their viewer performance by defining limited above which avatars with heavy rendering costs are replaced by a solid colour. A viewer with these updates has been under limited testing for a while,  and is liable to be appearing very soon, particularly given the Lab’s recent announcement on forthcoming improvements.

Mesh Importer

[23:43] There are a fair number of bugs and issues which have been identified with the current mesh importer project viewer (see the JIRA filter list for details), it is therefore unlikely that it will be progressing in the short term.

Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM)

[00:05] A new version of the Viewer-Managed Marketplace project viewer was released on Friday, February 13th, version 3.7.25.298865. This viewer includes updates as a result of feedback from initial testing on Aditi, and is available for further testing, but again must be used on Aditi in regions ACME D, E, or F.

A number of issues remain open with This update:

  • VMM-20 Include product listing ID in audit listings window results
  • VMM-18 Add “sort by age of listing creation”
  • VMM-17 Support listing folders at any level of Marketplace Listings folder.

A list of key changes can be found on the forum update announcing the release of the new version of the viewer, and further details on VMM can be found in the SL wiki FAQ.

This viewer doesn’t address all of the concerns raised during testing, as some are still being discussed internally by the Lab, and a decision has yet to be taken on whether to address the additional concerns (which are presumably non-viewer specific) prior to holding a feedback meeting, or whether to push ahead with a further feedback meeting which might encompass the use of the new project viewer. This largely depends on the likely time frame for addressing the remaining issues: it might be as little as a week or so, or it might potentially be a month or so.

Experience Keys / Tools

[06:34] The Lab is continuing to work on back-end issues which need to be sorted prior to the project progressing. It is still believed that none of these issues directly affect the viewer or will require updates to the viewer, however, it is unlikely the viewer will be updated (other than to maintain parity with any other viewer that might be promoted ahead of it), until such time as the Lab is confident they are ready to start pushing things forward again.

Group Chat

The Lab is also continuing to work on group chat, and a further mini-test took place during the Server Beta User Group meeting on Thursday, February 12th. This focuses on testing viewer-side freezes when opening and closing or swapping between group chat tabs, and chat update times when moving across region boundaries either physically for via teleports. The overall results of these tests were that users experienced almost no viewer-side freezes in comparison to the last tests, where some severe viewer lock-ups were experienced.

[10:27] Most of the effort on group chat is now being directed into these issues of stability and eliminating the need for servers to be restarted as a result of server-side freezes, given that one the whole, performance for the majority (all but some of the very largest groups) has been noticeably improved. In terms of the server freezes, progress is being made, with Oz reporting that there might only be once such instance a day now as a result of fixes already implemented, which is currently being iterated upon as a result of  the additional monitoring / logging capabilities the Lab have also introduced.

Attachment Issues

[24:52] There have been increasing reports on variations of a problem with attachment rendering following teleports / region crossings (e.g. attachments seem to detach and then re-attach, people see their attachments as missing while other see them as still attached – and vice-versa, and so on). Some of the issues are listed in BUG-6925, and the issues have been noted by the Lab.

The likelihood is that these issues are the result of more than one problem, and possibly the result of various race conditions resulting from the complexities of data packaging and hand-over required in both a region crossing and a teleport (which are both essentially the same things – the packaging and handing of data relating to an avatar and its attachments between simulators, and then passing of updated information to users’ viewers). Some also appear to be directly related to AIS v3 (as per BUG-6925) Currently, the Lab is still prioritising SL issues and problems, and  full determination as to what needs to be down to resolve these problems has yet to be made.

In the meantime, if you do encounter the problem, and you’re preferably using the official viewer, you might want to consider filing the following information via BUG-6925:

  • The specific time, origin region (the place you were crossing  / teleporting from) and destination region (the place you were crossing / teleporting to)
  • Avatar name
  • The item ID (UUID) for the attachment(s) exhibiting a problem
  • The viewer log that was recorded at the time the problem occurred.

This will at least provide the Lab with data they can use in further investigations into the issues, once matters have been prioritised.

Other Items

Presidents’ Day

Monday, February 16th marks Presidents’ Day in the United States and Linden Lab will be observing the holiday. This means that there is effectively a no change window in force from February 13th through 16th inclusive. This in turn means:

  • There will be no Open-source development meeting on Monday, February 16th
  • Any server-side deployments scheduled for the week commencing Monday, February 16th will most likely take place a day later than usual. So any Main (SLS) channel deployment will probably occur on Wednesday, February 18th and any RC channel deployments on Thursday, February 19th.

Blog navigation update

One of the things I’m striving to achieve within this blog is ease of access to information, be it through the way I use categories and tags for posts or through the use of the available menu options within the blog’s theme.

From time-to-time this inevitably means I tend to reshuffle and refine things in order to  – hopefully – make finding items easier. Those who regularly visit the blog may have noticed already that I’ve done so again, with a further re-vamp of the top menu.

To help you get used to the update menus, here’s quick run-down of what’s changed.

The updated menus at the top of this blog
The updated menus at the top of this blog

News and Opinion: this menu still provides access to all my “news” and “opinion” articles, all still with their own sub-menus. However, the “SL Project Updates” item has now been re-located to the new SL Tech menu – see below.

SL Tech: this is a new menu heading, and brings together:

  • My weekly SL project updates, which look at on-going server-side and viewer work
  • My on-going coverage of viewers (official and TPV) – news, reviews, etc.
  • Articles on those significant issues that have been covered in these pages
  • The various SL tutorials I’ve written, or have pulled into this blog (with the original authors’ permissions) from other sources.
My "travelogue" articles on SL destinations, and features on other virtual world have been relocated
My “travelogue” articles on SL destinations, and features on other virtual world have been relocated

Events-Reviews-Travels: This option still provides access to all my SL event previews and reviews (RFL of SL, Fantasy Faire, SLB, BURN2, etc.), and my reviews of art installations, SL products, the Drax Files, my annual reviews, etc. However, all of my travelogue features and articles on those other virtual worlds and environments can now also be found here.

General: This option now provides access to information on me, my SL interests, this blog, etc., as well as covering those things not intrinsically SL or virtual world focused: spaceflight and astronomy, VR and AR, etc.

Information related to me and the blog now appear under the General menu
Information related to me and the blog now appear under the General menu

As with previous versions of the menu system, clicking on a “main” menu topic will display the entries for all of the sub-menus listed under it (if it has a sub-menu). So, for example, if you click on SL Tech > SL Project Updates all of the project updates I’ve written will be listed chronologically (or you can use the sub-menu to display the updates written in a specific year).

Hopefully, these changes won’t confuse those who have made use of the menus, and will further assist people in finding information in these pages.