Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Smartphone-based VR headsets are all the rage, from heavy plastic units to lightweight cardboard devices. But what if you’re on a budget, or need something quicker than the mailman can deliver?
The smart answer is to make your own Google Cardboard VR goggles. All you need is some card, a design, lenses, and a means to secure your phone in the goggles. Here’s everything you need to know about making your own Google Cardboard VR headset.
What Is Google Cardboard?
Launched in 2014, Google Cardboard is the simplified VR headset kit from Google. It is essentially a head-mounted cardboard box, equipped with 45mm focal length lenses. Also included are hook-and-loop fastenings for securing your phone, a magnet, and a rubber band. Compatible with Android and iOS devices, Google Cardboard also includes an NFC tag, for fast launching of VR apps.
Since its launch, many competitors have unveiled their own takes on Google Cardboard. Smartphone-based VR has become so popular, meanwhile, that plastic headsets have become widely available. Some are even cheaper than Google Cardboard.
You can buy an official Google Cardboard VR headset online—it’s inexpensive, as you can see—but building your own is simple and relatively quick.
What Type of Cardboard Works Best?
Different thicknesses of card and cardboard are available. But which is best for building a DIY Google Cardboard headset?
In part, it depends on the design. If you find a template that requires only thick card, you’ll find this adequate. However, other designs rely on thicker cardboard, the type that Amazon might send goods in.
The weight of your phone will also affect the type of card you use for your Google Cardboard project. You’ll probably find that the best results can be enjoyed through trial and error.
Cardboard is sturdy enough, but long-term isn’t durable. Storing the box on a shelf is a smart idea; the back of a drawer or wardrobe, less so. If there’s a chance it can be damaged easily, maybe opt for wood instead.
Google Cardboard VR Template
Before you get started, you’ll need a template. This is a simple downloadable PDF from Google that you can print out, either directly onto card, or onto paper. (If the latter, affix the design to your cardboard then cut around the template.)
While several templates are available, they’re all pretty much identical. The official template is intended to work with standard Android handsets as well as iPhones.
Download: Google Cardboard VR template
Note that although the template is rigid, your headset can look as cool (or drab) as you like. Before constructing the headset, you might take the time to consider some decorative enhancements. Paint, stickers, or simply permanent markers can pimp your Google Cardboard headset considerably.
Where to Get Google Cardboard Lenses
Whatever material you choose for constructing your Google Cardboard headset, you will need lenses. While not particularly costly, lenses are the most expensive single component of a Google Cardboard kit.
You have two options: 1) buy a pair of Google Cardboard-compatible lenses or 2) make your own compatible lenses.
These lenses are 34mm diameter with a 45mm focal length, which makes them ideal for Google Cardboard projects. But if buying lenses is too expensive or not fast enough for your needs, you could make your own.
All you’ll need is a plastic bottle, scissors, glue, a syringe, and some water. Check this video for details:
As you can see, it is surprisingly simple to make your own lenses. However, it would be advisable to rely on these short-term only. Plastic scratches easily and leaks can occur. If you can use professionally manufactured lenses, you’ll enjoy a far superior Google Cardboard VR experience.
Whatever method you use to source your lenses, when they’re ready, it’s time to build your Google Cardboard VR headset.
DIY Google Cardboard VR Tutorials
Whether you’re confident with the basic template or you just want to see how it all goes together, it’s worth checking how other people are building their Google Cardboard projects.
These three Google Cardboard alternatives should help you get started.
1. Make VR Cardboard Easy
This video demonstrates how to create a VR headset using a couple of strips of cardboard. There is no template involved, but plenty of detail so keep a note of the measurements as they’re displayed!
Also required for this build: parcel packing tape, scissors, craft knife, glue, hook-and-loop fastener.
2. Turn an iPhone Box Into a VR Headset
Why bother making a Google Cardboard headset from scrap cardboard when you already have a smartphone-sized box at home? Whether you own an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or whatever, the box your handset shipped in can be adapted.
While it might hit your device’s resell value, swift application of a craft knife can effortlessly turn your phone’s box into a VR headset. Just had a strap to secure it to your head and enjoy!
3. FoloVR Compact DIY VR Headset
Finally, check this compact VR headset based on Google Cardboard.
Things are a little different here. Rather than the head-mounted approach, this project requires you to hold the goggles, binocular style. Unlike other projects (and Google Cardboard itself), the FoloVR project is foldable, and small enough to fit in your pocket.
The downside of FoloVR, however, is that your phone is secured only by a pair of elastic bands. If this sounds too unsafe for your needs, you might prefer to skip it.
Enjoy VR Games and Movies With a DIY Google Cardboard Headset
By now, you should have built your DIY VR headset, or be about to. We’ve shown you how Google Cardboard works, what components you’ll need, and even how to make your own lenses.
While thicker cardboard is sturdier, you may prefer to adapt your project and construct it from wood. Use the designs we’ve shared; it’s totally your choice.