How to Watch VR Videos Without Headset

Lens - man using google cardboard

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A man using google cardboard how to watch vr videos without headset

Featured Image via Flickr

Virtual reality has become increasingly popular over the last several years. While the concept has been around for decades, it didn’t become technologically and financially accessible to the average consumer until recently.

The best way to experience virtual reality at home is through the aid of a VR headset. These devices connect to a gaming system such as the PlayStation 4. There are other headsets designed by HTC and other manufacturers.

However, these headsets cost several hundred dollars. Before you invest this kind of money into a VR specific device, know how to watch VR videos without headset.

How to Watch VR Videos Without Headset

Google Cardboard

One of the best ways to go about doing this is with Google Cardboard. Now, Google Cardboard is not actually any kind of specific technology. Instead, it is an actual piece of physical cardboard you cut out and fold to place your cell phone in.

You can order Google Cardboard directly from Google for only a few bucks. The company also provides instructions on how to make your own cardboard headset.

This way, if you’re looking for an entry into the world of virtual reality without spending more than a few dollars, there is an option (it’s also beneficial if you have a phone that is a few years old and you’re not sure if it can handle the performance requirements of VR).

The product will give you the cardboard construction for the headset, plus the lenses that go into the cardboard headset.

While assembling Google Cardboard is easy to do, it doesn’t come with anything that holds the device to your head, and this forces you to manually hold on to the Google Cardboard construction.

This becomes tiring if you’re looking to watch videos for longer than just a few minutes.

Google sells more advanced options that have padding around where your head comes in contact with the headset. It also comes with a strap that works around the rear of your head as well.

You can also shop online for other options. You can pick up a relatively solid option for around $20, depending on the exact design you are interested in.

Whatever you go with, you can use Google Cardboard or other makeshift headset options to view the videos in.

Cardboard VR Headset how to watch vr videos without headset

Image via Pixabay

On Smartphones

Now that you have the headset, you’ll need to prepare your smartphone. The easiest way to do this is to download the Google Cardboard application.

Now, some cell phones will not work with the VR playback as it is a large file. However, as long as you have an Android device built in the last few years it should be able to handle it.

Transferring the Files

Once you have finished downloading the Google Cardboard application to your mobile phone, you’ll need to transfer the video file to your smartphone.

You have two options for this. You can either download the file right onto your mobile phone or stream it via video-sharing.

To download the file, simply select the file and choose to download it to your phone. If you decide to stream the file from the video-sharing service, you need to have very fast Internet service.

It is not recommended that you try to stream it over data; although your phone might be able to support the data, it could exceed your monthly allotment by the time the 10-minute video has finished playing.

VR files are extremely large. This is because every VR file is basically two video files playing at the same time. The individual video files are for each eye. Due to this, you’ll find these files are much larger than what you are likely accustomed to.

A single 15-minute file can take up more space than a single movie you might download through the Google Play Store. So do be aware that the file is going to be large.

Using the Phone

Once the file has been downloaded to the smartphone (or is ready to stream), you’ll want to insert it into the Google Cardboard or similar device.

Make sure to launch the playback application first before sliding it in. Some headsets are not easy to use and control playback once inserted.

The exact method for inserting the headset in order to complete the ‘how to watch VR videos without headset’ instructions will vary based on the headset you have.

Usually, the back end of the headset will have a slot that opens up. You then slide your phone in with the screen facing the direction where your face will be positioned.

There should be a sliding mechanism on the interior of this slot that allows you to secure the phone in the correct position— this is so that it will not slide in and out while you’re using the device.

With the phone in place, close the headset and position it against your face. When the video plays back, you’ll be able to watch the virtual reality video. You can turn your head to any side and it will look as if you are there.

Now, most of these videos will have about a 180-degree radius. This means you can look forward, turn your head over your left shoulder and over your right shoulder, and this will cover your viewing area.

If the video is made for virtual reality purposes, it may have a 360-degree viewing range although this usually isn’t the case.


Image via Pixabay

External Devices

You will need to have headphones to watch the video. Your Google Cardboard or another headset device should have a hole where you can insert headphones to connect with the device.

When buying a headset, it is important to pick one out that is made for your specific phone. This way, there are openings on the side of the device that allow your headphones to go into the device.

You may want to purchase a Bluetooth enabled remote. This way, you can control playback without having to remove the phone from the case. By following these steps you won’t have any problem figuring out how to watch VR videos without headset.

On a Computer

There is a chance you’ll download VR videos to your computer first. If you’re interested in how to watch VR videos without headset you can download files to your computer and then transfer the information to your phone.

This is an added step and will delay the viewing process, but sometimes it’s easier to download videos from a computer-based website than from a smartphone-based site.

women using computer

Image via Pixabay

VR Videos on a Computer

When it comes to how to watch VR videos without a headset, you’ll find there is one major issue with watching videos on your computer. Do you remember cutting out the jagged world globe in school and then it would fold up to make a circle?

 When you cut it out, it wasn’t a complete shape but instead folded over on itself. This is similar to what a VR video is prior to processing.

However, the VR video will have a different video for each eye. This is because for VR to look real there needs to be some kind of depth perception.

Each of the eyes have a similar video appearance, only one is recorded a few inches to the left or the right of the other camera.

The entire purpose of watching VR is so that the viewing angle will move as you tilt your head. You are not able to do this on a computer.

So while you are able to watch the unprocessed videos you’ll see two side-by-side video files that look like the globe cut outs from school.

No Real Computer Options

In order to watch a VR video, you need the playback device to be able to move along with your own head movement. You can download as many video files as you want to the computer, it will not be able to appropriately play back the videos.

So, there’s no real way to play back videos with your computer if you want to see it in a virtual presentation.

You can download some programs that will merge the two video files together. This way, you can watch a standard HD video without the VR elements to it.

However, as you are looking at how to watch VR videos without headset, you’ll find the very best way to do this without spending the major bucks on a real headset.

Your best course of action for how to watch VR videos without headset is to purchase Google Cardboard or a similar device.


You don’t need to spend much money to watch VR videos. While using your smartphone is a bit limited in terms of the kind of games you can play, you do have access to most videos with the help of a smartphone.

Should you find you enjoy the experience, you can then move onto the use of an actual VR headset. You just need to follow the steps of how to watch VR videos without headset instructions on how to utilize such a playback device.

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