How To Make A VR Headset Without Lenses: Our Guide

Woman holding a brown cardboard box

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New virtual reality headsets can be prohibitively expensive to purchase for many of us, and do-it-yourself (DIY) VR headsets can seem nearly impossible to construct with reliable results. This is especially true if you live in a rural area with few retail outlets or other resources directly available to you. Luckily, if you learn how to make a VR headset without lenses, you can enjoy a full-scale virtual reality experience without any expensive or hard-to-find equipment at all. Another good alternative to making your own lenses is to use any pair of carefully selected magnifying lenses or a pair of suitable eyeglasses.

Do-it-yourself projects are not only cost-effective, but they are also fun and rewarding. Keep reading to learn how to make a VR headset without lenses. This project has wonderful results if you work with care.

Cardboard VR Headset

​Image via Pixabay

What Materials Do I Need to Make a VR Headset?

The first step in learning how to make a VR headset without lenses is to know what materials you need. The essential components for making a VR headset without lenses are water, cardboard, hot glue, foam, and a clear plastic 2-liter bottle sold typically containing soda.

Importance of the Water and Plastic Bottle

The clear plastic bottle and water are of utmost importance. These materials are used to make your own lenses at home, and these lenses are what will make or break your virtual reality experience. Remember, the shorter the focal length, the less tunnel vision you will experience. Try to keep the focal length as short as possible with a wide field of view to get the best viewing experience.

How to Improve Quality

To improve the quality of the virtual reality headset you construct, you should use a viewer parameter form to calibrate your virtual reality scene. This can be accomplished using a link provided by the Google Cardboard website. Use your smartphone to open the link or scan the QR code at the bottom of the webpage with your smartphone. Place your phone in the viewer of your headset and follow the provided instructions to adjust the parameters until you get the best possible view.

While Google Cardboard requires a 35-millimeter lens, a 25-millimeter lens will be more than adequate for your purposes, especially since the parameters are adjustable.

How Does the Absence of Lenses Affect the VR Experience?

If you are interested in learning how to make a VR headset without lenses, you may wonder what the quality of the virtual reality experience will ultimately be. The only way to get a 3D experience without lenses is through stereoscopic rendering. However, to achieve this, your phone would need to be 18-to-27 feet away from your eyes, and this is just impractical.

A better question to ask is: If you follow reliable directions for how to make a VR headset without lenses, will you have a legitimate, enjoyable virtual reality experience? The answer comes down to just a few essential variables. If you get the focal distance right, which is easy with a ruler, then the homemade lenses will work just as well as lenses you could purchase commercially.

How to Make a VR Headset With Lenses

If you do not feel comfortable following directions that tell you how to make a VR headset without lenses, it is possible to make a homemade virtual reality headset with nearly any magnifying lens. All you need is a magnifying lens, or a set of eyeglasses, of identical focal length and diameter. Take two tubes of a length just shorter than the focal length necessary to cover the entire screen of your phone when positioned side by side. Toothpaste tubes work well for smaller screens.

Cover the interiors of these tubes with reflective material such as aluminum foil to eliminate tunnel vision. This is effective because it prevents you from seeing darkness around the screen. Tape or glue the tubes side by side and add cotton between the tubes on the sides where you will be placing the lenses. This will serve as padding for your nose. Put an eye lens in place on each tube.

Next, launch a virtual reality app and place your phone so that the point at which the tubes meet is in the center of the screen. To make a holder for the phone, take a sturdy piece of cardboard about as wide, or just a little wider, than the total width of the tubes. This holder should be 3″-to-4″ longer than the width of your phone.

Fasten the cardboard on the bottom of the tubes using Velcro and fold it around the phone. Fold it again to attach the other side of the cardboard on the top. When using Velcro (or a comparable button-hook material), you do not have to hold the cardboard after putting the phone in it. If you do not have any such material, you will have to hold it in place… but this works, too.

Another thing you can do to improve your immersive, yet homemade, virtual reality experience is to take a piece of newspaper two-to-three inches wider than the total length of your virtual reality headset and wrap it around the headset five-to-six times. Cut a curve out of the side where the lens is positioned. This serves a couple of purposes. First, it prevents your eyes from perceiving any external light. It also makes it more comfortable for your forehead to rest within the headset.

Taping the edges will make this assembly even more durable. You may also wish to place a small hole where your headphone jack is for the audio output.

How to Make a VR Headset Without Lenses

Man in grey shirt holding a cardbox vr headset

​Image via ​Pexels

When first approaching such a project, you may think that learning how to make a VR headset without lenses is hard. However, if you are handy, this will not be the case. There are five simple steps involved in making a virtual reality headset without lenses, and we’ve listed them here.

Gather the Materials

Chances are good that you have most, if not all, of the necessary materials for this mission around your house. As mentioned above, the materials you need are a clear plastic 2L bottle, cardboard, foam, hot glue, and water.

Cut Out Your New Lenses

All you need from the bottle is the top part next to the neck. Cut off all the parts you do not need. Use a cork to draw four circles and cut them out with scissors. To get the perfect shape for your lenses, use the bent plastic right next to the bottle’s neck.

Make the Lenses

To make a lens, glue two of the circles together so there is a bubble of air between them. Carefully glue edges around the circles using a glue gun. Leave a small hole so you can fill your lens with water. Once you add your water to this air bubble, carefully seal the hole with more hot glue. To test the lenses and make sure there are no leaks, submerge the lenses in water. If the lens is sealed correctly, there will be no bubbles when it is submerged. If there are bubbles, identify the location of the leak and try sealing it once again.

Make the Box

The fourth step in making a virtual reality headset without lenses is the construction of the box. The box needs to be slightly bigger than the phone you will be using and about 1.9685 inches deep. It is okay to round up to 2″ or so. This is the approximate distance between your lenses and your phone. Cut out a rectangular hole for the screen of your smartphone and two circles for your completed lenses. Use your hot glue gun to glue your new lenses into their proper positions on the headset.

​Make the Soft Mask

Congratulations! You’re almost done. The fifth and final step for making a virtual reality headset without lenses is making the soft mask. Your box must have a lid to hold your smartphone in place. If it doesn’t, make one, using your hot glue gun to affix it to your box. To lock the lid in place, use magnets or Velcro so that your phone doesn’t shift or move around.

Next, take your foam material and cut it into a mask to fit your face. Make sure it covers your forehead comfortably. Cut out holes for your eyes and an opening for your nose. Glue it to your virtual reality headset and enjoy your economical, DIY virtual reality experience!


Learning how to make a VR headset without lenses is relatively simple when taken step by step, and depending on what you have around the house, you may not even have to go to the store to purchase any of the materials. To make your own virtual reality headset, all you need is water, a hot glue gun, cardboard, foam, and a clear plastic bottle.Gather the necessary materials, cut your lenses out of the clear plastic bottle and fill these lenses with water. Make sure the lenses are properly sealed by submerging them in water and making sure no bubbles come up. Make the box and the soft mask, and then you will be ready to enjoy your virtual reality experience without having to purchase an expensive VR headset and wait for shipping to your home.

If you want to optimize your virtual reality experience, we recommend visiting the Google Cardboard website and following the instructions to define your VR parameters. Remember, one reliable way to reduce tunnel vision is to make the focal length of your lenses as wide as possible.

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