Did McDonald’s just give us a cool little stereoscopic viewing device, free with recent Happy Meals? Why yes, yes they did! When I first saw this strange little device, I didn’t know what to do with it – this is because we discarded the first set of viewing cards that came with the device. My assumption was that it was some sort of magnifier tool for reading, so imagine my surprise when my daughter shows me a few weeks later how it was actually intended to be used, after getting a second one and actually keeping the cards…
This Batman-themed toy is intended to hold a stereoscopic viewing card at a predetermined distance from your eyes, allowing each eye to focus independently on either of the two (slightly different) copies of the picture. This creates a moderate sense of depth, which enhances the viewing experience by tricking your brain into splicing together the two slightly different images. The toy comes in black and purple, ostensibly for the boys / girls (my daughter has and loves both colors).
When I saw the correct use of the device, the first thing I thought of was the myriad of Virtual Reality (stereoscopic) apps I had recently downloaded for use with the Google Cardboard project (and other similar VR viewing devices)…. I opened one up, slipped my iPhone 6 into the holding device and VOILA! Instant budget Virtual Reality viewing device. The effect is pretty cool, and while the viewing area is limited compared to better devices which are currently available, my daughter was definitely entertained. So was I, to be quite honest.
The field of view is probably only 45-60 degrees or so – to put this into perspective, the Google Cardboard project offers a 90 degree field of view and the Oculus Rift offers a generous 110 degrees.
While you must manually hold the viewer against your face, you can look around naturally and explore full 3D landscapes in visually immersive environments – so when you are riding a virtual roller coaster, you can look around as you enjoy the ride as naturally as you would, in real life!
While you can certainly pick up a better stereoscopic viewing device for relatively little money, online (the Google Cardboard device can be picked up for $10-20 and has a wider viewing range), if you’ve already got the free McDonald’s toy you might as well have some fun with it! There are a wide range of Virtual Reality / stereoscopic apps available through the App Store and Google Play Store, so be sure to do a quick search and check out all the cool options. Whether you want to visit the moon, ride virtual roller coasters or swim with sharks, they have it all. Even the selection of free VR apps is impressive, and many developers haven’t even begun truly exploring this entertainment space, yet. 2017 should be an amazing year for Virtual Reality, in general!