Kickin’ it ole School with the Fisher-Price ViewMaster
Ah the 70s… What a great time to learn about the world. Each Sunday afternoon the Cousteau family would take us along to explore the unknown oceans and Sunday evening was brought to us by Mutual of Omahas’ Wild Kingdom. Each week, Marlin Perkin’s and Jim Fowler would take us deep into the rain forest or accompany us on an African safari complete with lions and elephants. I fell in love with science at an early age with these television shows. In the spring of 1976, I got my very first ViewMaster. I spent every birthday dollar I could find on ViewMaster carousels. I needed to prepare myself for the Sunday explorations: all great explorers needed to know what they may get into while wading through the everglades or diving deep into the blue abyss or the Indian Ocean. What an amazing device. I just felt like I was there!
I haven’t looked through my collection of ViewMaster carousels for some time now. I am sorry to report that the carousels are dusty and many of the slides are cracked. I have neglected them over the years, and after this past weekend, I’m worried I may never look at them again.
You’re Going to Want to Get One of These
I had a chance to visit some great friends in Pennsylvania over the weekend. The highlight of the trip was connecting with their son Alex. When I say we were hanging out, that’s just what we did… hang out. I wasn’t dropping him off at a friend’s house or making passive conversation over the dinner table about grades, sports, or friends. None of that parent stuff. We were talking about cool stuff. You know, stuff we found on the internet over the past few months, and how we think it will make everything just awesome.
“Oh wait… I gotta’ show you something.” Alex ran upstairs and returned 20 seconds later with his new Google Cardboard glasses. He quickly threw his cell phone into the device, and handed it to me with a devilish smile. 9th graders have an amazing knack for getting others to experience something. No instructions, no gestures, he just handed it to me knowing I was about to be rocked. This age group is amazing at sales. If you like it, cool… If not, that’s cool too. This guy is good. Oh, he’s very good.
I placed the Google Cardboard on my face and just started looking. Amazing. In fact, I think I said amazing over 6 times. Alex did prep the experience with a preselected scene of a highly gilded room from the 18th century, all I needed to do was look. As I moved my head to the left… to the right… up… down… I was speechless. I’ve seen Virtual Reality (VR) devices in the past, but this thing actually made me feel as if I was within the scene. In fact, I was getting a bit seasick. It was all too real. I was looking over a beautiful town in Italy, then I quickly found myself flying over Bryce canyon.
I remember saying these two things… “This thing is going to blow up, big time. So, how much does this thing cost?” Every salesman knows the sale is closed as soon as they ask about price. “It’s like 25 bucks man…” followed with yet another devilish smile. Yes, I ordered mine a few minutes ago.
Google’s Cardboard MVP
No need to read Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup to get the gist of what Google is up to. Lean manufacturing is all about getting a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) in front of people quickly so they can help improve the product. It may not be beautiful, but you get to fail early. When you are creating new products, failing early is the key to making products people want.
They created an MVP out of cardboard to reinforce just how cutting edge this technology is. Cardboard is an awesome material. You know it’s a prototype, and it fills you with a sense of wonder of what this device could eventually turn into. In fact, if it was made of plastic, I don’t think it would have been as successful. Call me ole-school but I do like the feeling of being included in the design lab.
OK, I’m an educator and like all other educators, we are always thinking about ways to introduce concepts to students. Just imagine exploring the cave painting of Lascaux or possibly standing at the top of the Great Pyramids of Giza. What if we took the Google Cardboard headset and watched as the Monarch butterflies returned to the tropical rainforests of Mexico for the winter. I found myself looking for places to explore and bookmarking them on my phone so I can be ready as soon as my headset arrives.
One of the great things about this device is that it works on almost all google android phones. The concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in action. It worked with Alex’s Motorola phone, and I know it will work with my Samsung Galaxy S3. I don’t think it will work on a very large Phablet phone like the Samsung Note 3, but it may. Again, we are looking at the inception of these devices. There just isn’t any going back to my ViewMaster carousels from the 70s.
Do you need one of these headsets for every student in your classroom? Probably not. In fact, I have found that I was pretty darn excited while I was waiting for my second, third and fourth turn to look for new things. It’s not heavy, the cardboard is quite sturdy and should survive a few years if you keep it out of the rain.
Check it Out
What are you waiting for… go check this out!