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View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer review: Affordable VR device could use better content

John Moltz | March 7, 2016
Affordable virtual reality is here, but you get what you pay for.

The marketplace of tawdry ideas

VR is really all about the content, and before you reach for a Jackson, you may be asking yourself “Wait, is there a Flappy Bird clone for this thing? Because I’m not buying it if there isn’t a Flappy Bird clone.” Don’t fret, of course there’s a Flappy Bird clone. Even your run-of-the-mill Android-based toaster-fridge has a Flappy Bird clone. Not only that, there’s also a a Cardboard-compatible Crossy Road clone, which has the singular virtue of teaching you why the real game has more of a head-down view (turns out it’s impossible to see around those trees at street level).

Please note that I’m not recommending these apps, I’m just telling you they exist and are free to play. If you want a game that makes better use of the technology, Vanguard V is also free. The graphics are decent, it’s challenging enough and, while I found it a bit difficult to control and lacking in any diversity of play, it’s the kind of game you might expect a VR system to have.

It’s a bit disappointing but probably not surprising that the most well-put-together content I found was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit app. The image quality is high, and unlike many of the other apps, the VR content is all video. The subject matter is regrettably less educational than some of the other options, but what Sports Illustrated got right was putting things in motion. As the model shows you, yes, she is wearing a skimpy bathing suit, and as is de rigueur for the genre, the tropical wind blows through the palm trees to your right and waves crash on the shore behind you. In some instances they make further use of the medium by putting models or even the crew behind you so there’s more for you to turn around and look at. This is the kind of experience I was hoping for, even if it takes longer to download, takes up more storage space on my iPhone and makes me feel like yet another predictable cog in the great wheel of the straight male industrial machine (although, I did not pay for the extra content).

It’s probably poetic justice that even that app was making me nauseous. Still, I hope VR producers learn from Sport’s Illustrated’s technical example.

Bottom line

While VR content is currently an extremely mixed bag, the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer is a decent enough option if you’re eager to dip your toe into the pool in which we will all one day be immersed. The Viewer is a bit rough around some edges, but it’s priced to appeal even to budgets more suited to its ancient 3D forebear.


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