View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer

I recently converted an old stereoscopic slide to be viewed on computers. This had lackluster results compared to the amazing view you had looking at the old slides through an old stereoscopic viewer.

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Then I wondered if there was a modern equivalent which got me into researching Google Cardboard which uses the same technique as the old stereoscopic viewers.

google cardboard_Crop

First, there are a ton of Google Cardboard viewers (link, link). Most are made of cardboard (to probably to keep the cost down and to keep it light), but I wanted something more durable since even if Google Cardboard went away, I could still create my own compatible photos as long as I had a working compatible smartphone. That search pointed me to the $25 Mattel View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack which cost about the same as the cardboard ones.

view-master virtual reality viewer_Crop_DCE.jpg

First Impressions

It would have been nice if there were instructions on how to insert the iPhone 5/5S adapter. It doesn’t go in intuitively since you have to shove it into position between all the parts, but once in place, you are good to go.

I know Mattel designed the viewer to fit a wide range of heads including kids and adults. And I know that I have a wide head, but dang! In order for me to get my eyes in position, I have to shove my head between the firm rubber, vice-like blinders. It would have been nice if the rubber folded out like on binoculars.

I also wear glasses and they would not fit between the blinders, but I can still focus without them with this viewer. However, two other people that tried this out could not focus without them (luckily, they had more average width heads).

iOS programs

There were a few free apps that my kids and I tested. (My wife gets sick seeing balance-challenging visuals.) They are interesting, but nothing to keep going back to.

Online Video

There are a few online videos formatted for Google Cardboard. I haven’t looked too far due to the large pixel gaps that I find unpleasant.

YouTube

YouTube recently started supporting 360 video. The instructions say to go to this channel to start, but you have to use the app in order to switch to Google Cardboard view. Otherwise, you just see one image.

Will this make movies look like you are watching it on a 10ft screen?

No. Maybe in the future, but not until:

  • The pixel gap is reduced. Magnifying your smartphone not only makes them visible, but really noticeable. Every get a drop of water on your smartphone? (This effect might be reduced with an anti-aliasing screen like they do with DSLR sensors, but that causes its own set of problems.)
  • Smartphone resolution is increased. The iPhone 6 Plus is 1920×1080 (essentially 1080p), but each eye gets half of that, so you are getting less than 1080p and projecting it much larger than your home screen. And that is further reduced if you have a smaller/less dense smartphone screen like an iPhone 5/5C/5S (1136×640).

DIY stereoscopic images

Several months ago, I converted old stereoscopic slides to GIFs and images for Google Cardboard. I took those same images and made them Google Cardboard compatible. I found that if you use a smartphone smaller than 6″, it works better to have a gap in the middle so your eyes are less cross-eyed.

(Click to pop out in new tab for Google Cardboard.)

Mt Prospect School Parade circa 1957 B4 photojoiner.net 2500x1600Mt Prospect School Parade circa 1957 B4 paintnet iphone5B

But if you put too much space, it doesn’t work well anymore.

I haven’t found a program or online site to make these — I had to do this in Photoshop.

For convenience, view these on my iPhone using Dropbox, but OneDrive and even emailing yourself would work.

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