A while ago we were clearing out my late grandmother’s house when I came across a piece of treasure; an unopened Tyco View-Master (Hunchback of Notre Dame edition) from the mid 90s. This little toy had been waiting, biding its time for a couple of decades only to be awoken in a brave new world where it didn’t seem to fit anymore. Not to worry little toy, I thought, we’ll get you up to speed.
The box was a little faded, but the unit itself was vibrant and pristine.
The unit was easy to prise apart and dismantle into four parts:
- The eyepiece including the lenses
- The back piece with the window
- The orange shutter
- and the spring to make the shutter click back into place.
At this point I could test what I was doing. I loaded up the Google Cardboard app, held my Nexus 4 against the eyepiece and peered through.
And it worked.
It wasn’t quite perfect though. The phone sits where the View-Master reels would normally be, so of course the focal length of the lenses is just right, but there are little bits of plastic that stick out which prevent the phone from sitting flat against the eyepiece. I took a coping saw and started some surgery. I left as much of the four corner pieces as I could to help the two halves of the unit line up, and to provide a platform for the bottom edge of the phone.
At this point it was time to put things back together, and my method of choice was the humble elastic band. I used a few inside to replace the spring on the shutter mechanism, and a few red ones outside to hold it all together and provide some padding for the phone. The original spring method for the shutter would no longer work and I had to flip the shutter lever around to the opposite side, but after that it worked nicely.
The Google Cardboard spec allows a magnet to be used as a button or trigger. I’ve just taped the magnet onto the shutter lever, which works great. Maybe in the future I can have it look a little better, perhaps a coloured magnet and clear tape, but for now this will do.
Welcome to the future little toy, sorry we don’t have flying cars.