Home Made VR Headset – DIY

This is for the techie peeps. It is a way to built a head set for US$25 to $50. And it appears to be no harder than building Revell model cars and plains.

This first video is the overview of how things work. Below the fold is the How-To video.

This head set uses a smart phone for a display screen, like a Samsung S3, 4, or 5. To avoid using your phone you can buy a screen. That adds $120 to $150 to the cost. It also adds to the complication of building this contraption and you have to be good with electronics.

Still, that is way less than the current cost of an Oculus DK1 or 2 and the estimated retail price of $350 for the planned retail version of the Oculus, which is now estimated to be released in 2015, not 2014 as many of us were thinking last year. 

I did learn there is a company, Shoogee, making what is called the Durovis Dive (watch before you start building) for about US$75. The thing is a readymade ‘clamp’ for your smart phone, which is similar to what is being built here.

I also learned there is a more DIY kind of headset called Altergaze. There is an interview/overview type article here: Altergaze: VR’s new underdog? Written by: Will Freeman. To go this route you need a 3D printer. There kickstarter is here: Altergaze Kickstarter.

Here is the video on the supper cheap version. This is an overview type video.

This is the newer How-To that costs a bit more. It is an overview type video.

The written directions for building this lash up are here. This is not a high tech build requiring a degree in electronics. Most anyone that can put a jigsaw puzzle together can probably build it.

The written directions with all the details can be found on Road to VR’s web site. See: DIY Guide: Build a Smartphone VR Headset That Plays Oculus Rift Games and More for $20 (iOS or Android).

Interesting DIY projects and How-To-Play videos can be found in ohaple’s YouTube channel.

Another Alternative

The Durovis Dive has a number of apps in the play store. Since these are for phones, you don’t really need the head set to try things out.

You do need a game controller for some of the apps to run, preferably a BlueTooth version. Some of the Durovis apps seem to think you will play games ONLY with a controller and thus ignore the phone’s or tablet’s touch screen. Without a controller some games will not display. But, some will.

Note that many wireless game controllers use networking protocols and require a USB port and few, if any, use a mini-USB port. Look below to find an adapter if you already have a USB based controller and want to try it. I’m not sure if this is going to work as I don’t have a game controller for my PC and cannot experiment. I suppose I could chase down a driver or software to convince my phones to use an alternate WiFi source.

There are game controllers that use general WiFi and if you have a Wifi access point to go through, you may be able to talk things into working. Ohaple mentions it in one of his videos.

There are various brands of controllers. I’ve seen MOGA controllers for as little as $2.50 on eBay. But, the price seems to be in the $10 to $50 (50 = retail price) range. It is the top rated game controller according to Right Android. (Reference)

These controllers are popular because doing touch screen game control sucks. Also, people buy them and then don’t use them. So, they end up being sold on eBay giving us great prices.

You can skip the controller and use the Flight VR Demo by Claudio Panzanario or Tuscany Drive by FabulousPixel apps. They mostly work without a controller, which would be difficult to use while holding your phone.

Next a trip to the 99¢ Store to pick up 4 or 5 pairs of reading glasses of different strengths. I went for 1.75 and up. Wear two or more pair. You’ll see they let you see up close and magnify things.

You want the screen to be sharp at a distance of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8cm). Switch out glasses until you find your combination that works best.

I can hold my phone using my fingers with my thumbs on my head. I can get the 3D image into my brain. You’ll immediately see why the Durovis or Altgaze head sets are needed. But, you can see 3D.

Obviously this is ONLY for trying things out for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Be warned you will look ridiculous. So, be sure the webcam is off.


These cheap DIY ideas will give one a decent idea of what Rift-like-3D will be. But, and this is a BIG BUT… they do not provide the immersive quality of the true Rift devices that use barrel distortion for the display images. Not those I tried.

If you get one of these lash ups working, you will notice distortion in the image, at least I did. Your eye is dealing with a flat image and trying to make you brain accept it as 3D. It is somewhat like having a flat world map. Greenland looks to be bigger than the USA, it isn’t. It is a distortion in how the map is made by projecting a sphere on to a flat surface. The barrel distortion compensates for this aspect of our vision and corrects the game images so ‘Greenland’ is the right size.

If a game is made for the Rift it will have the barrel distortion software built in. So, this DIY stuff should approach Rift-like immersion.

The true benefit of the Rift is its immersive quality. We don’t have that for most games that we can use this DIY tech with. So, we save money but lose much of the immersive nature that people are raving about.

The Rift is said to have much better tech than than these DIY kits can provide. They are doing magic to get lag and blur down so the subconscious indicators our brain senses don’t give us simulator sickness. the DIY kits will be laggy and often blur

I warn you so you won’t be disappointed or think the Rift probably isn’t that immersive or that this is a true Rift experience. It isn’t. But, it is a good cheap imitation.

Additional Information

The aspheric lenses needed are basic reading glasses lenses, magnifying lenses. The problem I see with the reading glass lenses is the shape. They are definitely usable. But, there are other cheap sources of lenses. Try these:

eBay – of course, but you will have to do some search refinement to find just lenses. But, various cheap things can be taken apart of the lenses. Old cheap binoculars will work as pointed out somewhere in the info above.

Edmund’s Scientific – My dad used to buy us stuff from here. They have great things for kids to learn from.

Edmund’s Optics – This is a different site I did not know about. They have put a lot of optical stuff here. These are apparently much higher quality lenses.

Glue Guns and Sticks are cheap on eBay. A good set can be purchased for US$8. That is about half the retail cost, but there is often shipping charge at that price. Mini-guns will work.


If you are into some of the advanced electronics you can get parts at All Electronics. Of course your local Radio Shack has the common stuff needed for most projects.

Mouser Electronics – If you know exactly what you are looking for, I think it is easier to find parts on this site.

eForCity – This site carries the USB adapter you may need. A typical USB to Mini adapter goes for about US$5 plus $5 to $10 shipping and handling.

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  1. Pingback: Oculus Rift and Second Life | Nalates' Things & Stuff

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