Hands on with Poppy 3D, a View-Master-like device that turns iPhones into 3D cameras

Hands on with Poppy 3D, a View-Master-like device that turns iPhones into 3D cameras

Anyone who was born before the 2000s may remember the View-Master, a stereoscope toy that let you insert reels and see images in 3D. But of course, this is 2014 and most kids are learning to use iPhones before they can speak – so what better way to update the View-Master than with the Poppy 3D, a device that turns a regular iPhone into a 3D camera?

The Poppy 3D works as both a 3D viewer and camera. Using carefully designed plastic and glass, the lightweight device has a slot to insert your iPhone like a game cartridge. The underside of the Poppy is hollow, allowing users to reach in and tap to focus or change camera settings.


Ethan Lowry, Poppy’s co-creator, recommends you to use the Poppy camera app, but any ol’ iPhone camera app will work fine with the device. When you’re ready to shoot, swivel the front section over so the glass lines up with your iPhone’s camera. You can choose to tap the shutter from the iPhone’s touchscreen, or press volume up if you prefer a more natural shutter.

The resulting photo or video is converted into two stereoscopic images, viewable as 3D through the Poppy’s lens. The Poppy app allows you to export to file to email or YouTube. You don’t necessarily need a Poppy 3D viewer to see the file in 3D either – any ol’ red/blue glasses from the movie theaters will work just fine.

“Coming from software development backgrounds, we wanted to build something physical,” Lowry said alongside his co-creator Joe Heitzeberg. “Then we had an idea to make a stereocamera to make the 3D experience more accessible.”

The Poppy 3D costs $59, a considerably more budget-friendly option than, say, a 3D TV or four 3D movie tickets. “We found that iPhone people were always looking for something different to do with photography.”

The two-men team even went into Apple Store unsolicited to test their device with iPhone users during Poppy’s development phase (Lowry and Jeitzeberg were, thankfully, not immediately ejected).

“Many people were curious and excited,” Lowry said. “You see software developers coding in a coffee shop but no one ever stops to wonder what they’re working on. When people see the Poppy sitting on a table, everyone wants to know what this thing is.”


The first batch of Poppy 3D shipped to 58 countries this week following a successful Kickstarter funding last summer. The team has already seen Kickstarter fans develop their own apps to use with the Poppy, such as an Oculus Rift-esque 3D shooting game that makes use of the player’s entire peripheral.

For 2014, Lowry and Heitzeberg aim to continue developing the proprietary Poppy app, adding more social elements such as tweet, Facebook, hashtag search, and eventually, an Instagram-like ecospace where friends can share their 3D pictures and videos. Android support is also in the works.

The Poppy may seem quite novelty, but it brings back our nostalgia for the View-Master (and offers it to 21st century children who have no idea what the View-Master even was).

If you’re interested in the Poppy 3D, the guys have partnered with us to offer 10 percent off until January 14. Use our unique code: TNW-CES.

To keep up with our CES coverage, check out our 2014CES tag.

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