Hello, Instructables! Today, I will be showing you how to make your very own DIY Oculus Rift called The Nova!

In this instructable, I will be walking you through the design of The Nova's headset, the build process of said headset, and the head tracking techniques used in order to create the illusion of virtual reality.

Without any further ado, let's get to building!

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Step 1: First Things First: Why go DIY?

Picture of First Things First: Why go DIY?

Good question! With the Oculus Rift releasing sometime within the next year or so, and plenty of Oculus Rift Development Kits available for sale and preorder, making your own Virtual Reality Headset would seem a bit absurd.

However, there are many reasons why you'd want to make your own:

  • You don't have to wait for the official release.
    Let's face it—the Oculus Rift won't get here soon enough. Why wait, when you can make your own?
  • You want to learn more about VR.
    The Virtual Reality market is growing at an exponential rate. You can get in on the VR craze and learn a thing or two by building your own VR headset—you could even brainstorm a new VR concept that you can implement into your own VR headset and share with the world.
  • You can create your own design that fits your needs.
    The Oculus Rift has many great features and looks pretty slick, but what if you could come up with a better design? One that suits your face better, maybe? Or maybe make one in a different color? The sky's the limit: this is YOUR VR headset!
  • It's a great weekend project.
    The total build time is ~30 hours, including cutting out the pieces, hot gluing everything together, soldering the head tracking LEDs, and setting up the software. You can start making your own VR headset on a Friday afternoon and be up and running by Sunday afternoon!
  • You can make one yourself without being bought out by a sketchy third party
    Looking at you, Palmer. I don't blame him though, 2 billion dollars is a lot of money to go into making a high-quality and affordable VR unit, so maybe things will work out in the end. Until then, you can still make your own VR headset for less than half the cost of the current development kit!

Are you convinced yet? Great! Then let's go on to the next step: Parts and Tools!

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harryl2 made it!2 months ago

awsome project!

Nov 17, 2014 5-12-04 PM.jpg
millmore made it!7 months ago

I've made a version of this using my headMouse (which you link to above) as the motion controller. I used the polystyrene box that the screen came in to make a holder for everything - I just sliced it in a few layers, fitted everything at the correct distances, then taped it back together.

I found that I got dreadful distortion using the sort of lenses you described originally - the ones that are basically designed for LEDs. However, I got some cheap fresnel lenses, and they worked much better. They don't have the best optical properties in the world, but are easy to work with, and don't suffer much distortion or chromatic aberration.

Tomcat94 (author)  millmore7 months ago

Wow, that's fantastic!

I'm sorry to hear about the lenses, though. At the end of the parts and tools step, I warned not to use the lenses I initially used:
"I also don't recommend buying the lenses I bought, because the distortion around the edges is awful and I had to buy a new set of lenses--specifically, these lenses here."
I left the lenses I bought in the description for documentation purposes only, but it appears I may need to remove them completely to avoid further confusion.

Anyway, what's done is done. Your DIY Rift looks great, and I'm sure both you and your family enjoy it! Great job!

thymehog Tomcat945 months ago

Instead of completely removing the original lens information, maybe just a strike-out tag around it... and bold or underline the new lens info. That way it's there for documentation, and prevents future confusion.

If we were going to search for the lenses, would we be looking for aspheric lenses? I'd like to shop around, unless you're confident the one you have in the link is sufficient.
millmore Tomcat947 months ago
Yea, I ordered my parts before you updated the guide. I did consider also buying the loupes when I saw your update, but they weren't available to ship to the UK in a reasonable time, and I was impatient to get on.

The lenses are by far the most tricky part of this in my opinion, and it really needs almost binocular quality optics and adjustability to give a good display - i.e. for optimal display, you need the lenses at the correct distance and angle with sub millimetre precision, and for different people's eyes you ideally need adjustable eye separation, and different focusing in each eye. I mounted the fresnel lenses in binder clips, which make sure it is perfectly flat and allows for eye width adjustment, and I think it would actually work really well with better quality lenses (mine were £1 "mini magnifier sheets"). It's given me a new respect for the Oculus Rift developers though.
edmogeor8 months ago

For anyone (and you tomcat for future builds) intrested in using Arduino to track the head position, I found a brilliant project called 'EdTracker' at its an arduino project, a custom board can even be bought from the people behind it that creates a small little tracker. It connects via USB and displays on a Windows PC as a joystick, so in theory should work with games such a minecraft, if not software can be downloaded to convert this signal into mouse movements, all parts can be bought for around £10 ($15) so is a similar price to some of the airmouses available, this will also improve latency as it is connected via usb rather than wirelessly. Have not yet built this tracker but may post an instructable at a later date.

Thought people may be interested

I'm going to be using this, thank you! If you want to buy them all separately (cause they're currently out of stock), I've found the boards for 9 and 5 dollars + shipping. I've got some spare circuit board and button, but they should be a negligible price.

Pro Micro:


Drakencas8 months ago

just one question... what is the best price-quality head tracker

Tomcat94 (author)  Drakencas8 months ago

I'll give you a quick run-down:

An infrared head tracking unit will run you ~$20 for LEDs, wires, a battery pack, and the Playstation Eye, ~$12 if you decide to just use your current webcam. It works well enough, and is a fairly good head tracker that can track roll, x, y, and z positioning.

I haven't used Arduino, but from what I can gather from this instructable, Arduino will run you about ~$30 to $40. It's a precise head-tracker with low jitter and hardly any noticeable drift. It's wired unfortunately, although I'm sure dropping another $10 for a bluetooth module would alleviate that particular problem.

I experimented with a friend's air mouse the other day and liked it, so I went ahead and ordered a cheap one for $17. It's pretty precise for the price, but doesn't offer any roll, x, y, or z positioning, only mouse look.

So, I'd say if you need to track the roll, x, y, and z position of your head, go the IR route. If you don't care about that and just want to look around with the mouse, buy a cheap air mouse. If you just want to look around with the mouse and spend a little extra to learn about arduino along the way, then go with Arduino.

It's a toss-up between cheap air mouse and IR tracker. The cost difference is about $5 to $10, they both work well, and the only difference is the IR tracker's ability to track the roll of your head and the x, y, and z positioning. Decide which features you want or don't want, and buy the one that best suits your needs.

Zack880 Tomcat948 months ago

Is it possible to use an air mouse and an IR tracker at the same time? I was hoping to install a 9DOF sensor or air mouse along with an IR tracker onto the googles and basically disabling the pitch and yaw in the IR tracker software and enjoying the benefits of both worlds. :)

Tomcat94 (author)  Zack8808 months ago

Yes! I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't work, so go ahead!

hi, I have been thinking what i wanted, but i think i am going for the air mouse. im just asking why you need the x y z and roll. when do you need it, in which games.

Tomcat94 (author)  Drakencas8 months ago

The x, y, z, and roll are used mainly for simulation games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator, Arma II, F1 Racing 2013/2014, and Freespace II. If you're into simulations, x, y, z, and roll only enhance the experience.

An air mouse would be ideal for just about any other game that normally uses the mouse to look and doesn't decouple the head and weapon direction, such as first person shooters like Half-Life 2, Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Borderlands 2, or even first person exploration games like Dear Esther and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

hi, its me again. I need your help :$ I have everything except for the lenses. You recommended not to buy the lenses you bought first, but the ones you bought after that are a little to expensive for me. Can i just buy 2 loupes with the right size lenses in it and then take them out of the loupe?

Tomcat94 (author)  Drakencas8 months ago

No problem! Yes, just about any 51mm loupe lens should work. The reason the ones I linked to are expensive is because they provide less lens distortion (which could cause eye strain!), so be careful and make sure you get a good set of lenses. You should be able to easily remove the lenses from a loupe, absolutely.

thanks for your reply. I never play simulation games and im not really interested in them, so im going for a air mouse. thank you for helping me out! :)

These days it is very easy to build a low cost VR headset. In the early
90s it would have cost you a fortune to build such a headset. I built my
own PC Virtual Reality headset using a 8" 1024x768 lcd screen, a sheet
of 3x magnification fresnel lense and a wireless air mouse which acts as a
head tracker. It works great for any PC First Person Shooter or open
world RPG games like Skyrim, Oblivion, etc.

Ashley Irons

kdinis2 days ago

are you gona see two screens like in the video?

JamesGannon1 month ago

This is not an efficient or economical DIY. If you consider (in Canada) those parts will run you around $200, then you are putting in 30 hours work. 30 hours work at min wage equals $330 or an Occulus rift Dev kit. Adding up the time you spent working to buy the parts, plus the time spent building it comes out to $200+$330=$530 for a rough diy vr headset in addition to the 18hrs worked (at min wage) to adfford parts and the 30 hours building it. So now you have a choice. Buy the dev kit ~$350 (+32 hours @ min wage) or $530 for this one (+48 hours work).

As of Jan 7, 2015 the Canadian dollar is sitting roughly $0.80 American, meaning that to order the DK2 Oculus you're looking minimum $420 + S&H + Duty/Exchange... so rough guestimate brings it pretty much up to your $530 price range, meaning there's no reason NOT to DIY other than you don't already get everything in a nice neat package.

To answer the bigger question of "why DIY?" well, the DK2 Oculus doesn't have any support out of the box per se; hence the "Dev Kit" title. By doing this DIY you get to create your very own marvelous piece of hardware that will work with pretty much ANY PC GAME/PROGRAM out there already, plus multiple applications aside from simulation experiences: turn off the head tracking and you have your own personal theatre for movies/videos, just off the top of my head.

Is the final result pretty/flashy? That all depends on your effort for the "box" you put everything into. Cheap out and build yourself a cardboard contraption or take the time to do up a nice little headset - the limit is decided by you. Also consider this: what did the very first Oculus Rift Prototype, before the kickstarter, look like? Hmmmm?

do I need a 15v to run the lcd, I'm using 12v adaptor?
I'm using a vga cable, do I need to use hdmi?

stinky16781 month ago
Also, would this work?
stinky16781 month ago
what lenses would I need for a 7 inch 1920x1080 screen?
NathanielU4 months ago

I cant get my lense distance right, I have an ipd of 63.5mm. If I hold them in my hands and seperate them at around 8.5cm the images become one, but that wont fit in the welding goggles of v2. Am I doing something wrong?

This is the same issue I had. This instructable doesn't really address people who have wider set eyes like you and I. I still haven't found a work around. The lenses for V2 don't fit in V1, which is a more optimal design for folks like us.

roboguy881 month ago

just wondering about the quality of this thing... How pixelated does the screen look? How much does the screen you used weigh? With the IR head tracking, what's the latency like? And, does the image cover your whole field of view? Answers to these would be greatly appreciated. In general, is it as immersive as the Occulus Rift? Thanks.

JamesGannon1 month ago

This is not an efficient or economical DIY. If you consider (in Canada) those parts will run you around $200, then you are putting in 30 hours work. 30 hours work at min wage equals $330 or an Occulus rift Dev kit. Adding up the time you spent working to buy the parts, plus the time spent building it comes out to $200+$330=$530 for a rough diy vr headset in addition to the 18hrs worked (at min wage) to adfford parts and the 30 hours building it. So now you have a choice. Buy the dev kit ~$350 (+32 hours @ min wage) or $530 for this one (+48 hours work).

kelin.wheeler2 months ago
I'm tempted to build this with a 5" 800x480 display, do you think that would be a bad idea with 5x lenses?
paul.lackenby3 months ago

I know we are more into building than buying but a set of these might make things much more painless on the googles+lenses part:

That, a decent screen and some tape to cover the gaps in the adjustable shroud.... might make this easier for a lot of folks.
Still trying to source a decent screen personally (want 1080p minimum).

paul.lackenby3 months ago

I know we are more into building than buying but a set of these might make things much more painless on the googles+lenses part:

That, a decent screen and some tape to cover the gaps in the adjustable shroud.... might make this easier for a lot of folks.
Still trying to source a decent screen personally (want 1080p minimum).

Hazza_lemon3 months ago

awesome build, am planning on ordering the parts for it soon,but i was wondering if there was any screen door effect with this resolution screen, and if a higher resolution would make a noticeable difference?


paul.ash.73 months ago

I'm having problems with the cut out instructions I believe it to have something to do with how I'm printing it, some things, like the back part, is coming out as 17mm instead of 17.5mm and things like that, advise?

AnN23 months ago

What if...
My prescription is like 7-7.5 ( short sighted ) and I'm able too see details from 2 inches...
No lens required?

hamza.ethar.93 months ago

hey can i use an airmouse?

I am working on creating the DIY Oculus Rift and am currently trying out different approaches to the head tracking. I tried the IR LED and tried various positioning of the LEDs (CAP, BALL, etc..) After tests I found that the cap positioning worked best. However even though I had LED's with a 120 degree field of view, the ir camera would loose tracking if the head was turned too much. I didn't want to be limited with how far I could rotate my head so I decided the LED approach was a no go. I then researched Air Muse and found various topics on how to make your own or buy one. I then came across a solution and it only cost me £2, it was to use my iPhone as an air mouse. I bought an app called Mobile Mouse (Remote & Mouse) for £2 from the iPhone app store. I then downloaded and ran the PC server software that works with this app ( Then I set the app to use air motion. I noticed that you have to press a button to allow the app to move your mouse when you move your iPhone, but then I pressed the screen to my ear and to my surprise when I took it away from my ear, it was locked into moving the mouse regardless of me pressing the screen button, this was good as I could then mount the phone to my head and not have to press the button. I did this and fired up Mine Craft and adjusted the sensitivity to what suited me. If you set the sensitivity relatively low, you can match you head rotation to the avatar head rotation exactly, but if you want to play without having to stand up, you can increase the sensitivity so that a quarter turn of your head would turn the avatar head half way. The solution was the best I tested and I found it had the best control and felt the most real. It works with Windows or Mac and also iPhone or Android. Now I am waiting for the screen and lenses to be delivered and I can have the whole head tracking and Head Mounted Display working together.

paul.lackenby4 months ago

Just curious. If we were to pursue smaller screens would something like this (which claims to be 1920x1080p... I'm dubious but lets assume it's legit) be useful in reducing size/weight:

I assume it would then just require stronger lenses, closer to the screen (thus further reducing the size of the DIY rift). For lenses you could likely move towards the ones for the google cardboard "phone VR"?

paul.lackenby4 months ago

As far as tracking goes. As I've seen from some of the replies here Tomcat94 was suggesting a trackIR (or similar) would be perfect for the head tracking, here's a DIY version of that... put the 2 together and you'd have a VERY slick setup.

Do a google for "DIY EDtracker". Take about $15 worth of parts (and rivals the performance of a trackIR at like $115 :D )

Great project! Been drooling over it for months. I've got everything sourced save for the lcd. Could you quickly verify the distance between the top and bottom of the trapezoid pieces that make up the screen housing? I couldn't find it anywhere in the write up, and while I could certainly backtrack using the measure of the angle in the drawing, I don't know if the drawing was intended to accurately portray scale. Thanks for sharing this project!
dyota.irranga4 months ago

i wonder can i just use cardboard then ABS sheet?

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