Virtual reality is a booming market, and it’s easy to see why: the technology allows users to experience things that are impossible in real life. The best way to enjoy this immersive new world is with a headset—but what if you don’t have one? You can still experience VR without spending hundreds on equipment by using your smartphone.
You may not be able to buy a full-fledged VR headset, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience virtual reality.
You can use a cardboard box: Just get yourself a cardboard box, cut out eye holes and make sure it has enough room for your phone or tablet to fit inside comfortably. Then download some apps that support 360° videos or games and you’re good to go!
You can experience virtual reality with plastic housing: If you don't have time to make your own cardboard housing (or just don't want to), there are plenty of pre-made options available on Amazon, such as this Google Cardboard kit from VicTsing. The process is similar—just slide in your device through the hole at the top of the case and enjoy.
Since late 2016, Google, Samsung, and HTC have all offered ways to turn your smartphone into a makeshift VR headset.
Since late 2016, Google, Samsung, and HTC have all offered ways to turn your smartphone into a makeshift VR headset. The result is more affordable—and less bulky—than the high-end headsets from Oculus and Vive. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's less immersive.
Google Cardboard might be all you need to get started if you plan to use VR for gaming or other forms of entertainment. It's a real piece of cardboard with lenses attached to the front that can keep your phone steady while you view content through its wide-angle lenses at any reasonable angle or distance from your eyes. The rest of these "platforms" are built around high-end phones like those from Samsung or Apple (or an Android phone), which means they tend not only to be more expensive but also to have higher quality screens than what's included on a typical budget device like a OnePlus 6T or Galaxy S10 Plus—they'll run faster than an older model since they have better graphics processors inside them already as well as larger batteries that last longer between charges when playing games for extended periods.
Instead of using expensive and large goggles, VR without a headset rely on cheap cardboard boxes or plastic housings that you slot your phone into.
Instead of using expensive and large goggles, they rely on cheap cardboard boxes or plastic housings that you slot your phone into. The headset's lenses reflect the display onto the back of your eyes, and it uses sensors on the phone to track its position in space and react accordingly.
The image is clear enough to be used as a desktop monitor, but you'll need to hold onto it if you're not using it with a controller (or some kind of other input device). It can also be used for gaming in a pinch—as long as there's nothing too demanding going on behind those lenses.
The phone itself then acts as the screen, while sensors inside your device detect how you move your head.
In a nutshell, the phone itself then acts as the screen, while sensors inside your device detect how you move your head. This is why some people experience motion sickness when using VR headsets. If you don't have a headset, but want to see what it's like for yourself, many of the platforms have options to experience it on your smartphone.
I like learning about how to use headsets/glasses to go into MR(mixed reality).
If you're interested in learning how to use headsets or glasses to enter "mixed reality" virtual worlds, you might like reading our most recent blog post, "Mixed Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What's the Difference."
When entering VR with headsets or glasses, there are both many advantages and dangers. The good news is that experiencing virtual reality doesn't have to cost tens of thousands of dollars. For those looking for a virtual reality headset without breaking the bank, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear, or the HTC Vive are all fantastic choices.