Virtual reality glasses

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Virtual reality (VR) - computer-generated simulation of an interactive 3D environment that resembles real life - has been a huge buzz word for the last two decades. So where is it?

Several things have prevented VR from entering common usage, but perhaps the biggest issue has been cost. Do a Google search for "VR glasses" and you'll see some pretty expensive machinery. On this page, however, I show you how you can create your own pretty decent VR system for under $5. I call it "poor man's virtual reality", but you'll be pretty surprised by how effective it can be.

The 3D virtual reality glasses and goggles I'll show you how to build on this page.

Build Your Own "Poor Man's Virtual Reality Glasses"

Here is what you'll need:

  • A smartphone (for the screen).
  • Two lenses to video the two halves of your screen with each eye.
  • Some type of rigid paper or cardboard (I use photo paper) to print out my template and form the frame.
  • Some scissors and sticky tape (or glue), to cut it out and stick it together.

In the videos below I demonstrate how you can make your own inexpensive 3D glasses (first video) and goggles (second video).

Click here to watch the video

YouTube Video: .......
How to build your own "poor mans virtual reality glasses"
Length: ..... 7 mins 37 seconds (building glasses is first 2 mins)
read script

Click here to watch the video

YouTube Video: .......
Build your own virtual reality googles
Length: ..... 4 mins 09 seconds (actual building took 50 mins, but is time-lapse)
read scipt

Step 1: Get Some Lenses

Some of the many 3D cardboard binoculars you can buy... all of them with the same type of plastic lenses at the back.

As it says in the video, the lenses are crucial.... everything else you'll probably have on hand, but the lenses you'll have order on the internet. Several variety of lenses will work, but you will want a relatively small focal length because your phone is only so big.

The lenses I use are 2.5 cm diameter with a 8 cm focal length, and pulled from the front of "3x zoom" fordable cardboard binoculars. There are many varieties of these "cardboard binoculars" on the internet - I've ordered 5 varieties so far, and all have the same cheap, but decent plastic lenses connected together into one piece. You can order these by searching:

If you'd rather glass lenses, there's a very cheap brand of binoculars I've found work nicely. You'll need pliers to take the lenses out.

It seems pretty wasteful to buy binoculars (even paper ones) just for the lenses, but I've found it almost impossible to find the lenses on their own, so if anyone has any luck please e-mail me (!

As soon as you get the lenses, open this page on your mobile phone and zoom into one of the test "stereo pair" images and the end of this document till it fills the whole screen. Then hold the lenses up to your eyes and use a ruler to work out the distance between the lenses and the screen for your eyes to see the two images merge into one. Some people appear to be better at "seeing the 3D" than others, so allow yourself some time and you'll slowly get better at focusing your eyes.

Step 2: Make the Glasses

Templates used to print "glasses" and "goggles" respectively.

To make life easy I've made templates you can download:

I personally recommend you start with letter sized photo paper, and make sure you set the printer to "fit", "border-less" and select a photo paper setting. If you want a more rigid cardboard, print onto normal printer paper and then stick it onto the cardboard so that you cut the cardboard out the right size. Follow the instructions on the template to assemble the pieces in the right order. For your first attempt, I suggest you start with the "foldable glasses" and just print the first page. My second page on the "glasses" will make them not foldable anymore. The "attachable goggles" design come courtesy of David, and works best if you: (a) use rigid cardboard, (b) color the inside black and (c) attach an elastic strap at the back so you don't have to hold it to your face (as you must with the glasses).


What I hope from this little page is that people will be encourage to take these template as inspiration, but ultimately come up with their own wacky designs and maybe design some of their own phone apps to share back. Eventually I might upload templates for 3D printing, but if you want to go that route you can try "OpenDive" and if you're really keen you can pay for a pair of "Occulus Rift".

A word of warning: use movement responsibly - you don't want to fall over or get ill! Aside from saving money, something I like about using your smartphone is that I think you're less likely to get motion sick.

Hope you have fun with your virtual reality!


    Andrew Noske

Stereo Pair - Test Images

Fig 1: Test 2D stereo-pair image. When viewed with your lenses the correct distance the two images should merge to form one.... each image goes to the closest eye. Both image are identical, so should look pretty flat. Image itself was work I did at NCMIR, USCD.
Fig 2: Test 3D stereo-pair image. When viewed correctly image should appear 3D. Unlike the image above, the left and right image are slightly different camera angles, simulating what you'd see from each eye - thus giving the illusion of 3D. Image itself represents work I did at NCMIR, USCD in collaboration with the Retinal Cell Biology Lab at UCSB.
YouTube video: 3D stereo pair video - watch this video and you should see the 3D. Video itself was work I did at NCMIR, USCD.
The filming of these videos.... and also compares the poster-board and cardboard versions of the goggles.

Google Cardboard

Finally released! :

  • Google Cardboard ... will write more about this soon! I know the guy who created it - it's a really brilliant device. :)

Stereo Pair / VR Phone Applications

  • Coming soon


  • VR helmet systems:
    • DAQRI smart helmet - mostly concept I think, not sure if they actually make.
    • [ LimeMap motorbike helmet with navigation] - don't think they've built yet, didn't get funded on indiegogo - skip first 2 mins of video.