Picture of The Nova—A DIY Oculus Rift! (UPDATED!)

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!5 months ago

awsome project!

Nov 17, 2014 5-12-04 PM.jpg
millmore made it!10 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)  millmore10 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 Tomcat948 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 Tomcat9410 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.
edmogeor10 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:


Drakencas11 months ago

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

Tomcat94 (author)  Drakencas11 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 Tomcat9411 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)  Zack88011 months ago

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

Drakencas Tomcat9411 months ago

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)  Drakencas11 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.

Drakencas Tomcat9411 months ago

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)  Drakencas11 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.

Drakencas Tomcat9411 months ago

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! :)

atomdude18 hours ago

HI, your information is very informative. i am trying to get it to work with digital combat systems (dcs) it is a flight sim. i am using TrackIR. i downloaded vereio, but it is not working, what am i missing?

I'm not sure about the difference in quality, but a new Instructable came out that is about the same price but smaller and lighter.

I only mention this because I provided a bunch of links that brought that Instructable down to a little less than $100. I think I can do the same for this one, considering it has a lot of high-priced items for what can be cheap on sites like aliexpress. It can also be brought down in size/weight by using a 5.6" panel instead.

So I decided to go the IR route with this project and I learned a little something about the PlayStation Eye. There are actually two versions of it. Only one version of the eye can be modified for detecting Infrared light. There is a little information about it at here. I accidentally bought the wrong one the first time so I learned that the base of the wrong one says it is manufactured by another company.

cullnean26 days ago

was a big help in making templates

I've had this project sitting in my favorites for a while now, but I'm finally getting around to it. I managed to get the price down to less than $110 clean (+no shipping). I've got the link below. This does not include any tools or housing for the HMD.

You should only be able to view this document, but if you have the ability to alter it, please don't.

hkerr7 months ago

As long as they're infrared (IR), you should be fine.

stinky16783 months ago
what lenses would I need for a 7 inch 1920x1080 screen?

Try these

kdinis2 months ago

are you gona see two screens like in the video?

No, because each eye is going to see one screen, therefore it'll look like it's in 3D

itsbhenry made it!1 month ago

Alright guys! As soon as I found out about this DIY Rift, I just had to make it and use it while I wait for the Oculus Consumer version!

Let's start by telling you what I actually made. Yes I could buy all the equipment for the exact replica of the Nova, but I found that unneccesary in my opinion. I already owned an iPad Mini 3 which has a 7 inch HD screen so I just used it.

My version of the Nova, I'd like to call the iMini Nova works pretty good. I made it out of cardboard and it's pretty strong. The only thing is, my iPad is a bit heavy so I'm going to have to add another strap down the middle to hold it up when I'm wearing it. It's not that big of a problem first. I have another more imminent problem.

First I'll talk about the problem I'm having now and then I'll tell you all about some of the fixes that I have made for some people who may not be able to get the whole VR thing working for them.

My problem right now is that I can see the image as one, but it's blurry and low quality even though my screen is HD and the lenses are the sames one's tom used(

Any solutions to this would be greatly appreciated.

Now as for the problems I managed to fix.

I read in the comments that for people who have wide eyes, having the lenses close together doesn't work for them. I am one of those people. The google cardboard doesn't even work for me because they don't fit my ipd. My eyes are simply too far apart.

My fix for this was to take out the visor of the welding goggles completely. After that, I cut off the rubber ends that were left to completely open the front part of the goggles. Then I just placed the lenses at the very end of each side of the goggles and I could finally see the image as one image, but again, it's blurry.

I'll be using this to play games and such once i fix the blurry vision problem:

That's all I can think of for now. I'll answer any questions down below if you have any and happy DIY'ing!


UPDATE: I fixed the blurriness. It seems the lenses were too far away from the screen to clearly show the image on the iPad. I simply cut off about half an inch of the side and top/bottom panels, extended the side panel(about the same length that I extended the top/bottom panels), and then remade the iPad holder/frame.

That worked perfectly and now my official iMini Nova is complete. It works like a charm, no lag. My iPad mini is the perfect screen and all is going well. Will try screening my PC onto my iPad tomorrow to test out lagging and such and see if I can play my games.

BartoszK1 month ago
Hey its me again, if i use this screen:
and it says that its 1080p, so does that mean its resolution would be 1920x1080? Thanks for any help in advance

afraid not mate , the screen is only 800x480

stinky16783 months ago
Also, would this work?
Its a really good screen i think, it says its 1080p which means it should be 1920x1080, right? But in the description it says its 800x400
TheCoolDad1 month ago
I know what I'm doing at work over the next week or so..... Lol. Well written, thank you for sharing!!
reHgoc made it!2 months ago

Hello friends! I'm made it and it's really strong!
Thank you very much for you idea!

reHgoc2 months ago
ashley.irons22 months ago

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

JamesGannon4 months 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).

JimB8 JamesGannon3 months ago

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?

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