Google Polycarbonate




Introduction: Google Polycarbonate

About: So many things to learn and make, so little time! I like things that are cool, useful, efficient, well crafted.

You can have a truly mind blowing virtual reality experience without spending a lot of money. Try it, it's stunning!

EDIT 1: Do not confuse Google Glass and Google Cardboard. Glass is augmented reality, whereas Cardboard is 3D virtual reality. This instructable is about 3D.

EDIT 2: Vote for this projects if you like it! Thank!

Recently, the Google Cardboard project made much buzz, and motivated me to complete this project. But it is the Durovis Dive project, which exists since several years already, that has been my trigger to start this project.

All these Dive and Google people have made a great job (great and astute hardware design, great apps) and I want to thank them for having made VR so easy!

Google Polycarbonate
This is the name of the present project. Similar to Google Cardboard, with the following advantages:

  • Much better look than Cardboard. Below Durovis Dive and Oculus Rift, but definitely far above "Happy Meal" Cardboard. And much more durable.
  • It's a maker statement. Requires time to build (2 evenings maximum).
  • Trains your skills working with polycarbonate (it's quite easy, actually).
  • You can set the focus to match your sight.
  • You can, well, clean it in the dishwasher. Which is cool.
  • The translucent design gives you some clue about the outer world, and this may help you not getting sick.

The basic principle of stereoscopy is to deliver to each one of your eyes an image of the same scene, but with a slightly shifted perspective point of view.

Your smart phone, by means of dedicated apps, will part its screen in two halves, one for each eye. The lenses will allow you to focus on the screen (because at approx a 5 cm distance, your eye cannot focus without help). The head mount, goal of the present project, will hold everything together.

Virtual Reality (VR)

The smart phone can, in addition to just generating the stereo images, use its acceleration- (i.e. tilt) and magnetic- (i.e. compass) sensors, in order to update the viewpoint inside the virtual scene, in accordance to your movements and orientation, creating a true and stunning VR experience.

Step 1: VR Alternatives

Depending on your expectations, you have several other options. Here are a few and what I can say about them:

Oculus Rift - whole hardware included

  • $350.00 - available for developers
  • Professional product finish
  • Up to full HD resolution per eye
  • For the serious VR user
  • Said to possibly make you sick before you get accustomed; or maybe just a lag issue needing to be solved

Durovis Dive - uses your smart phone

  • Around $80, in addition to your smart phone (Android best supported; only 1 demo + 1 game for iOS)
  • Professional product finish
  • Resolution of your phone. With non-Retina screens, quite visible inter-pixel black lines visible.
  • A few games and demos available for Android; poor support for iOS
  • For apps requiring inputs, Bluetooth input device needed (USB on-the-go possible?)

Google Cardboard - uses your smart phone

  • At $10 (in addition to your Android smart phone), a lot of bang for the buck!
  • Requires some work from you (probably no tools required)
  • About the look... well... did you get it in a McDonald's Happy Meal?
  • AFAIK, you cannot tune the focus to match your sight.
  • The input is cleverly implemented by a magnet, to simulate simple clicks. Limited, but sufficient for the provided apps
  • A few demos are available on Google Play store, for Android (no iOS, I presume)
  • I think they can run apps designed for Durovis Dive
  • EDIT: More on the magnet.
    In order to interact with the scene (in particular, to select an object or menu item that you look at), they simulate the mouse click (or screen tap) by detecting a quick change of the magnetic field. So, no bluetooth nor USB device is needed. You just to have to slide the magnet up and down again.

Please correct me if the above is inaccurate.

OK, I should also mention toys like this one. Serious alternatives, really. Very cheap, looks a bit above Happy Meal. Need the addition of the magnet (to simulate clicks).

Step 2: Working With Polycarbonate Hollow Sheets

The polycarbonate, as translucent hollow sheets, is a very nice material for crafting.

It has several interesting features:

  • Variety of colors
  • Easy to work out; a bit like cardboard
  • Forgiving; unlike acrylic, scratches and slight dirt will not be an issue
  • Very light and sturdy
  • Washable
  • Stylish

The above pictures show how you can obtain very nice bends, with the inside forming straight angles, and the outside becoming very nicely rounded:

  1. Just remove some part of the inner side, at the desired corner location.
  2. Remove the separation. Temporarily bend in the opposite direction to help during removal.
  3. Finally bend in desired direction

I used a cutter, a Dremel (but it is really optional), and an X-Acto knife to clean the cuts.

    Step 3: Needed Materials


    It is necessary to slightly plan your project ahead. Indeed, the only critical part (apart from the smart phone itself, of course) is the pair of lenses. I got my ones from the Durovis Dive project, from Amazon. Currently out of stock, maybe the effect of Google Cardboard...

    Smart Phone

    You will need an Android smart phone with Android 4.1 or above, or an iPhone if you insist on (there is one Durovis Dive game, and one demo). A 4.3" display is ideal. Bigger screens should work too.

    Other materials

      • 1 polycarbonate hollow sheet, 6 mm thick (0.24")
      • Two times: 1 x M4 screw, 1 x wing- or regular- M4 nut, 2 x washer
      • 1 rubber band, 15 cm long (6")
      • Thin iron wire (e.g. bag tie wire)
      • 2 headless nails; not too hard steel; paper clips should be fine too
      • 1 neodymium magnet, cubic, side 5 mm (0.2")
      • 1 ferrite magnet (for magnetic board)

    Step 4: Needed Tools

      • Cutting mat
      • Metallic ruler
      • Cutter
      • Sand paper, medium grit
      • Permanent marker, fine
      • Masking tape
      • File
      • Pliers
      • Hot melt glue gun
      • Hand drill and drill bits: 4 mm (0.1"), 1.5 mm (0.06")
      • Optional:
        • Dremel with mini disc saw
        • Drill press
        • Drill bit, 2.2 cm diameter (0.9")
        • Hole saw drill bit, 2.5 cm diameter (1")
        • X-Acto knife

      Step 5: Choosing Your Blueprint

      In this Instructable they have done a great work providing (in Step 1) several blueprints for various phone sizes.

      Carefully choose the one matching your phone size.

      Step 6: Cutting the Frame

      From the chosen blueprint you will need to cut out the top, bottom, and the two lateral walls.

      Picture 1:

      • Print and cut along a frame that is enclosing the dents that they defined for the joinery.

      Picture 2:

      • Align the paper pieces on the polycarbonate. Very important: The sides of each piece must coincide exactly with an inner wall of the polycarbonate sheet. Tape.
      • Allow approx 1/2 cm extra length on the bottom wall, to support the phone.
      • Draw the cut line. Do not care for the curves yet.

      Picture 3:

      • Tape the opposite side, and draw well-aligned cut lines on the tape.

      Picture 4:

      • Cut along the lines.
      • Use a Dremel (easier but will need some sanding),
      • or use a cutter and a metal ruler (need many passes; mind to not loose alignment; be careful).

      Picture 5:

      • File, sand and clean the edges of the cuts.

      Picture 6:

      • Cut the curved parts away.

      Step 7: Making the Frame Bends

      As explained in step 2, mark and cut away the inner separators corresponding to the frame bends.

      Step 8: Clipping the Frame

      With pliers, bend the two nails.

      Make a short cut into the bottom wall to allow the nail properly meet the side wall.

      The frame is done.

      Step 9: Making the Lenses Holder

      Photo 1:

      • Measure the inner size of the frame.
      • Measure the distance between the center of your two eyes (form me 6 cm).
      • Draw the lens holder, adding lateral space for two flaps.

      Photo 2:

      • To determine the exact position of the flap bends, keep in mind that the holder with flaps folded at 90°, will have to exactly fit into the frame.

      Photo 3:

      • Drill the two holes with a diameter slightly smaller than the lenses. If you do not have a drill bit of that size, use a file or a jigsaw.

      Photo 4: the result

      Step 10: Making the Lenses Holder (cont)

      I needed to have the lenses slightly nearer to my eyes than the holder would allow, so I had to cut two polycarbonate rings.

      The rings are glued on the holder with hot melt glue.

      Then the lenses get carefully glued on the rings, by means of four drops of hot melt glue.

      Step 11: Making the Tightening

      Drill a long hole on each side of the frame, in order to be able to adjust the position of the lens holder.

      Drill a regular hole in the holder's flap. align and mark the proper height of the hole's center.

      Install the M4 screw with nut and washers, connecting the lens holder to the frame.

      Step 12: Adding the Rubber

      Drill small holes in the frame, and tighten the rubber by means of iron wire.

      Step 13: Resulting Polycarbonate Pieces

      Now our polycarbonate pieces are done.

      With this design and materials, the object can be disassembled and re-assembled as many times as desired with no problem.

      I attached my design as SVG file, for a Sony Experia Z1 compact phone. But keep in mind that your dimensions may differ, depending on your chosen blueprint to match your phone.

      Step 14: Adding the Magnets

      The 4 mm cubic neodymium magnet can freely move inside a chamber of the polycarbonate sheet.

      The regular whiteboard (ferrite) magnet is ideal to pair with the neodymium one: The ferrite one is big enough to be manipulated, strong enough to hold very well. Using two neodymium magnet would make them very difficut to move.

      One could seal the chamber by one drop of hot melt glue on each side.

      Step 15: Finished Product

      The product is now ready to dive into 3D virtual reality!

      The 2nd picture shows all the finished parts.

      It could bear some more improvements such as:

      • using the belt provided along with the Durovis lens kit
      • adding some Sugru on the edges in contact with the face, for increased comfort...

      But really, like me, you're way too impatient to use it, so it can be done later!

      Step 16: Set the Focus and Enjoy

      Get a good focus for each eye. At best, rest the whole on a table, phone facing the table top, and move each washer of the holder to get a good focus for each eye.

      Start your Google Cardboard or Dive app, and enjoy. Two android apps to start with:

      • Dive Unity Demo
      • Cardboard

      Happy immersion!

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      25 Discussions


      5 years ago on Introduction

      Nice Project !!!!
      bt I have Lenses with FL 15
      can I Use Them????


      5 years ago on Introduction

      Nice project! I just found out that you can view VR on your phone for free without building anything. You just hold it 10-30cm from your eyes and "cross your eyes" by trying to look "through the screen" at infinite distance. It require a bit of training if you haven´t done it before but it works =)


      Here is the link to the Smartphone 3D Viewer which I had made in October 2013.

      Posted the instructable only recently.

      It is really very simple to make. No need for the Magnets, as the design is pretty open and allows easy touch accessibility to the smartphone/ipod for easy, touch based selection. No NFC Tag is required......the NFC Tag is just used to automatically switch on the Virtual Reality program or app.......which one can do just as easily, by touching the screen, to switch on the desired VR app or Video.


      5 years ago on Introduction

      i like where you took this, this is stylish as well as an improvement in stability. if i can get my hands on some poly carbonate i will be replicating this. it is midterm election season after all.


      Thank you for a very nice instructable. :-)

      I have made a similar Viewer using 2mm sheets of particle board wood which were laser cut to the desired shape.
      For the lenses I have used optical grade +6 diopter reading glass lenses
      which I purchased from my local optician. I also additionally purchased
      +5, +4, +3 diopter lenses (in pairs) which can be used to focus on to
      wider smart phone screens. The +6 diopter is good for up to 4 inch
      screens. I will put up the instructable outlining the steps, shortly.

      Could you please explain what the magnets are for and how they are used?

      I have also made a glass prism which allows one to see 3D cross eye SBS photos and videos on any non 3D monitor or LCD TV. You may wish to check it out.
      Here is the link :

      Thank you once again for a very nice instructable. :-)


      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      I was just reading up on the Google Cardboard viewer, and had the same idea about using reading glasses for the lenses as you. The 'official' viewer specifies 40mm (+2.5 diopter) which is a long way from the +6 you are using. I was wondering, why the discrepancy?


      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      Hi, AndyGadget, there is a direct relationship between focal length and diopter which would mean that the +2.5 diopter which you are referring to would need the phone screen to be mounted atleast 40 centimetres from the lens!! something is amiss in the specifications given by google.
      You can check this website for easy diopter to focal length conversion :-

      Also, if you input +6 as the diopter value, the auto-calculator will return the focal length value as 16.6 centimetres. Which you will see reflected, in the dimension, of the length of the "base", of my viewer.

      The "40mm" value that they mention, is the diameter of the circular lens.
      In my case I bought 55mm diameter lenses and cut them using a grinder to fit into my viewer.
      Go ahead and make one for yourself. You will be amazed at the picture quality that you can get from a device which is basically so simple. ( I mounted an ipod of screen size 3.5 inches diagonal, and the 3D effect is a lot of fun).

      Hope this answers your question. Let me know if you need anything more.
      Warm Regards.


      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      Ah . . . I've just realised my mistake - I did the focal length / diopter conversion in my head, got mm and cm muddled and was out by a power of 10! Doing it properly, the 40mm or 45mm focal length lenses give a diopter value of 25.0 and 22.2 respectively which makes more sense looking at the shape of the lenses.

      A colleague is bringing in a pair of the glasses tomorrow so I'll have a play with those.


      Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

      Thank you for your nice feedback and the useful information about the lenses. This will surely help readers quickly get the least easy-to-find parts.

      You have done very interesting experiments for 3D vision with the prism. Does it help watching so-called sirds? I mounted, as a kid, pairs of mirrors for each eye, on glasses frames, to set the view direction of each eye independently. Will post a photo.

      Regarding the magnet: for Google Cardboard, in order to interact with the scene (in particular, to select an object or menu item that you look at), they simulate the mouse click (or screen tap) by detecting a quick change of the magnetic field. So, no bluetooth nor USB device is needed. A bit odd, but you get quite quickly used to. An ingenious idea!


      6 years ago on Introduction

      Where do you get the translucent coroplast from??!!! It is very hard to find. I'm still looking for it.


      6 years ago on Introduction

      It's an attractive piece.

      Do you have any issues with outside light getting into the goggles?


      Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

      Frankly, it's rather an advantage:

      - Having some clue of your orientation in the real world, you probably tend to not get nausea as easily as with absolute immersion. And after all, your virtual orientation is meant to rotate in sync with your real orientation.

      - Flying in Google Earth, you can determine your flight direction in accordance with the real cardinal directions.


      6 years ago on Step 14

      what is the purpose of magnet...


      Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

      See my addition in step 2 (last bullet point under Google Cardboard).


      6 years ago

      and what are the magnets for?


      Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

      See my addition in step 2 (last bullet point under Google Cardboard).


      6 years ago

      I have a nexus 7 2013.... how could I make all of this work with a 7 inch tablet