Programming NFC tags

Now that you have fully assembled your Cardboard you can start with exploring the various Cardboard compatible apps and download them. Once downloaded just start an app and put your phone into the headset. But wouldn’t it be fun if your phone automatically starts an app upon inserting it into the headset? It is possible with an NFC tag!

In order to make it work you need to program an empty NFC tag. I used an app called NFC tools. You can find it in the Google Play Store:
Get it on Google Play

Grab an empty NFC tag and stick it onto the outer flap of the headset:

Open NFC Tools and scan the tag. You will see some cool information about the tag itself and whether it is empty or not (shown at the bottom):

Now we want to program the NFC tag in such a way that it opens the Cardboard app. In order to do so go to the “Write”-tab, click on “Add a record”, select “Application”, and click on the Android icon:

From the following list select “Cardboard”. Now choose “Write”. A pop-up shows saying “Approach an NFC Tag”. So again, scan the empty tag you just attached to your headset.

After scanning the NFC tag it will say “Write complete!”. Close the NFC Tools app. Once you approach the tag in your headset it will automatically open the Cardboard app! From there you can start every Cardboard compatible app you’ve installed on your phone.

Assembling the headset

Now that you’ve collected the necessary items we can start with assembling the headset. You will need some additional tools though, which are shown in the photo below (click to enlarge):

Step-by-step plan
Down here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to cut the headset and assemble it.

1. Prepare the template
Print out the template on regular paper (so not too thick) and cut it out. The numbers on the template tell you where to glue two different parts of the template together: glue the white number 1 on top of the black number 1, the white number 2 on top of the black number 2, and so on. If you hold the paper in front of a light source or your window you can do this rather precise. In the end you’ll have this:

2. Cut the cardboard
Attach the template to the cardboard by using some tape. Start with cutting the cardboard along the solid black lines. You can try scissors, but I would recommend you to use a sharp knife and a ruler. This will make sure that the edges of the cardboard are smooth.

Continue with cutting all the solid black lines, including the small holes (the hardest part). Start folding the cardboard along the red dashed lines. To make sure you fold the cardboard in the right places you can attach the template back on top of the cardboard. In the end you’ll have this:

3. Fold the headset
Take the lenses and place them like explained in the template.

Fold the cardboard and glue (permanent) or tape (less permanent) it together. This is personal and thus up to you!

Start folding the largest piece of cardboard, like this:

Fold the flap, take the two magnets, and affix them to either side of the cardboard. The disk magnet is placed into the hole while the ring magnet is affixed on the opposite side of the cardboard. Like this:

And this:

Now take the other cardboard pieces and attach them to the largest cardboard piece. You might need to trim some of the holes and edges of the cardboard a little to make sure that everything fits nicely. Now you’ll have something like this (I didn’t use glue or tape here for the sake of making the tutorial, so it looks kinda odd):

Attach the flap on top of the headset, trim some of the holes and edges if necessary, and glue or tape it all together. Like this:

And this:

4. Create the Velcro closures
Prepare the Velcro by cutting 4 pieces of both strips (so 4 pieces with hooks and 4 pieces with loops). My pieces were around 3 cm in length (1 inches). To make sure that the hook and loop strips of each closure are equal in length just attach them to each other before cutting, like in the picture below:

Remove the backing paper and attach the Velcro strips to your headset. You might want to use some extra super glue to make sure it is securely attached to the cardboard, because my experience is that the Velcro tends to come off under pressure (for instance when your phone is inserted).

Create two closures on top of the headset:

And two on the extra flaps I designed to keep your phone in place.

Like this:

Now the headset is completely assembled and you are almost ready to play with it!

Shopping list

Before you can start with assembling your own cardboard VR headset you will need to purchase and collect some specific items. I ordered most of the “ingredients” online on websites like Ebay. If you are lucky enough you can find some of the items in a (specialised) hardware store. I would recommend you to collect all items on beforehand, because it is much more fun to assemble the headset in one go.

  1. Cardboard
    Of course the most important ingredient of the headset is the cardboard. You can probably buy this in a local hobby shop, but it is cheaper, environmental friendlier, ánd more fun to collect it from waste-paper bins. I collected some very nice pieces of cardboard from the waste-paper bins at my university’s faculty of Architecture. The minimum size of the cardboard should be somewhere around 62 x 25 cm (that’s 24½ x 10¼ inches). Make sure there are no folds in the cardboard. Google advises to use cardboard with a thickness of 1.5 mm (0.06 inches). I think mine was slightly thicker. This only meant that I had to adjust some of the cuts and holes when folding the headset.

  2. The lenses
    Perhaps the hardest part is to find the right type of lenses. These lenses are so-called “biconvex lenses” and have a focal distance of 45 mm. They should have a diameter of around 25 mm. I bought these: (note: 1 piece contains a set, so 2 lenses!).

  3. Two types of magnets
    You will need two different types of magnets for the switch used for controlling the headset. One of them is a “ferrite disk magnet”, the other one is a “neodymium ring magnet”. Both should have a diameter of around 20 mm (¾ inches). Thickness may vary between 3-5 mm ( to inches). Unfortunately you cannot just buy one magnet of each. Instead, they are mostly being sold in bulks of 5 or 10 pieces. I bought these: and these:

  4. Velcro strips
    The Velcro is used for opening and closing the back of the headset, where you put your phone. Use adhesive-backed Velcro with a width of approximately 20 mm (¾ inches). Something like this: (select 1 meter and “hook & loop”). For the Dutch people, I bought this at the local Hema store:

    Optional: Velcro headband. If you don’t want to hold the headset while using it you might want to create a Velcro headband.

    Tip: use a bit of super glue to glue the Velcro to the cardboard. Although it is adhesive-backed, the Velcro tends to come off under pressure. And you really don’t want your phone to fall down and crash onto the floor…

  5. NFC-tag (optional)
    You can stick an NFC-tag onto the headset if you want to automatically start the Google Cardboard app once you put your phone into the headset. These stickers will work with our OPOs: (sold in batches of 5 or 10 tags).

Once you have collected all of the items you are ready to move on to the next step: cutting and assembling, yeah! :)

Cardboard template

So, the first thing you need when making a Cardboard VR headset is… well, cardboard! It would also be nice to know how to cut and fold this cardboard. That’s why I created two template files: one A4-sized template and a letter-sized version. You can download the files down below.

At the time of creating this template I was an active member of the OnePlus community and my daily driver was a OnePlus One. I used my phone to test and modify the template until I was satisfied with the results.

Download A4 template  |  Download letter template