Making the Most of Cardboard

Remember how much fun you used to have as a kid with just your imagination and an empty box? Well, the clever geeks at Google have created a way for you to explore new worlds and create adventures with that old cardboard – no imagination needed!

Forget the Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens. You can create your own 3D virtual reality viewer at home with just some cardboard and a couple of plastic lenses. Even Mattel are getting involved by giving the retro ViewMaster a VR upgrade.


I’ll try and get a How-To video up soon but for now, here’s how it’s done:

You Will Need:

  • 2 x sheets of cardboard (sturdy enough to hold the lenses but easy to fold).
    I used an old Amazon box;
  • 2 x 45mm focal lenses (found for £1.50 on eBay);
  • An Android compatible smartphone;
  • Scissors, glue and ideally a craft knife;
  • Lots (and lots and lots) of tape for the first try;
  • Patience.


  • Magnets: The template says to use 1 x neodymium ring magnet and 1 x ceramic disk magnet but I tried it out with the back of an old fridge magnet an it worked out fine.
    These are used to select items whilst your phone is inside the viewer. I found it easier to poke a hole in the viewing side and rest my Note 3 S-Pen to tap the screen.
  • Velcro: 2 x pieces to hold the box closed less permanently.
  • Elastic band: To keep the phone in place if yours doesn’t fit exactly.

Step 1: Preparations

  • Download the Google Cardboard app from your app store and load it up to check your phone is compatible. Skip the QR set-up for now and open up an app. It should look a little like this and move as you move your device:


  • Download the template and further information at If you have a larger phone like my old Note 3, you might need to adjust the size of the template as you go for yours to fit.

Step 2: The Barebones

  • Print out the template at 100%. Make sure your printer doesn’t automatically add a white border around your image.
  • Cut out each part and glue onto your cardboard. Match up the numbers with the white numbers on top of the black.
  • Cut out your cardboard template. All black lines need to be cut up and it should look like mine below. You can see at which point I decided to use the X-Acto knife instead of scissors.Tip: Cut the tabs a little longer than the template shows, otherwise you’ll spend hours trying to get them to stay in their slots…


Step 3: Fold it Up

  • Fold along the red lines to see your viewer taking shape.
  • The central part folds into an ‘S’ shape with the lenses slotted into the middle two circles.
  • Slot it all together and you should end up with something vaguely resembling a VR viewer.
  • Sticky tape any pesky bits that just won’t stay together.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

  • Glue to disk magnet to the inside of the box – there should be a little ‘magnet here’ symbol – and place the ring magnet in the slot on the outside of the box.Note: Some phones have their magnetic sensors set up differently. So if yours isn’t working, try changing the magnets to the other side of the viewer.
  • Alternatively, if you’re a lazy Samsung Note user, poke a hole in the right hand side of the viewer to allow you to tap the screen with your pen.
  • If you want to, secure the phone compartment by attaching Velcro strips to the front flap.
  • You can set up your viewer properly by assigning it’s own QR code at This isn’t necessary but if you’ve changed the dimensions of anything, you can set custom screen-to-lens distances and other specifications here.

So here’s my first attempt. I’m gonna try and make a neater, more eye catching one that I wouldn’t be completely embarrassed to be seen in soon too!

If you do try it out, definitely check out the Google Maps app. You can fly around the world in Virtual Reality. It’s pretty cool.

And if you’re looking for more fun ways to use your left over cardboard, take a look at this. Pizza Hut have unveiled the Block Buster pizza box which you can turn into a projector for your phone. The pizza protector acts as a lens, you pop your phone inside the empty pizza box et voilà!. Plus, depending on which pizza you order, they’ll give you a QR code for a film you can download and watch on your new mini movie projector.


Unfortunately it’s only available in Hong Kong right now but surely it’s only a matter of time until we start seeing stuff like this. Please, Dominos?

About Georgie

At 24 years of age, I have finally accepted my inner nerd. It's time to finally tell the world! Electronics student with a love for all things geek and gaming. Grab a cup of tea and let's talk Star Wars.
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