Design Your Own Virtual Reality Headset *

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Areas of Science Video & Computer Games
Time Required Average (6-10 days)
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Virtual reality (VR) headsets are becoming increasingly popular with consumers for things like viewing 3D pictures and videos, or for playing video games. However, dedicated gaming headsets like the Oculus Rift® and PlayStation® VR can cost hundreds of dollars. Some headsets, like Google Cardboard™, which is literally made out of folded corrugated cardboard (Figure 1), are much cheaper because they can use any smartphone as the screen.

google cardboard VR headset
Figure 1. A Google Cardboard headset with a smartphone inserted as a screen.

These cheaper headsets do not have any electronics or built-in computing power—all of the processing and image rendering is done by the smartphone. This keeps the cost of the headset itself very low, but a cardboard headset can have some disadvantages. For example, cardboard might not be as durable or as comfortable as other materials like plastic or rubber, and it could be easily prone to staining from the user's sweat.

Can you do an engineering project where you either modify an existing Google Cardboard headset to improve it (a variety of headsets are available from, or build your own headset from scratch? See the reference in the Bibliography for official specifications and dimensions for Google Cardboard headsets, and note that you can purchase compatible lenses online. There are many ways you could improve or redesign a headset. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Design a headset with padding that is more comfortable to wear.
  • Design a headset that is easier to clean—who wants to share a sweaty headset with a friend?
  • Design a headset with grips that are easier to hold for extended periods of time.
  • Design a head strap for your headset so you do not have to hold onto it during extended use. Note that the official Google Cardboard specifications say not to use a head strap because they can cause motion sickness (you cannot move your head as quickly if you are holding the headset with your hands and thus have to rotate your entire body), but most gaming headsets do have head straps.
  • Design a better input mechanism for the headset (for example, a magnetic slider, conductive touch sensor, or Bluetooth-enabled button).

Make sure to test and evaluate your headset by following the engineering design process. For example, you could recruit volunteers to try out your headset and see whether or not they like the new features.

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Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
  • Oculus Rift® is a registered trademark of Oculus VR, LLC.
  • PlayStation® is a registered trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Limited.
  • Google Cardboard™ is a registered trademark of Google, Inc.

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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Finio, Ben. "Design Your Own Virtual Reality Headset." Science Buddies, 15 Mar. 2018, Accessed 16 Oct. 2019.

APA Style

Finio, B. (2018, March 15). Design Your Own Virtual Reality Headset. Retrieved from

Last edit date: 2018-03-15


The field of virtual reality is changing rapidly. Do your own background research to learn about the most up-to-date trends and technologies in virtual reality.

See this page for official specifications for Google Cardboard headsets, including a downloadable set of drawings and a "Best Practices" document:

Refer to these resources if you are not familiar with the engineering design process or how it differs from the scientific method:

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