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In less than three hours, I constructed a virtual reality viewer from a used pizza box somebody had thrown away. At its initial release, Cardboard came off as a cute riff on the resurgent interest in VR headset technologies.
The first step that's important (and can trip you up right off if you don't get it right) is choosing the type of cardboard to use. To start, you print the PDF templates for the Cardboard viewer parts onto three 8.5-x-11-in. Here is one of the two parts of the Viewer Case with the interior openings cut out and the curved edges finished. Use the X-Acto to cut through the three outer curves first in these circular patterns (top left) and then cut the three inner curves next (bottom left).
To finish out my snazzy new Cardboard viewer, I added the magnets, the Velcro and the rubber band.The two magnets are used to create a sliding switch mechanism. Attendees could assemble these bits into homespun virtual reality viewers that, used in conjunction with certain Android phone models, could display 3D stereoscopic images (full-motion graphics, stills or video).Called Google Cardboard, the resulting viewer resembles one of those View-Master toys that kids from many generations have used to look at pictures in simulated 3D. But it appears that serious interest has grown since then: Responding to Google's release of the Cardboard SDK in December, developers have been making an array of third-party Cardboard apps, and the Cardboard G+ community is more than 8,000 members strong. The Google Cardboard site says you should use cardboard that has a thickness similar to that of a "sturdy shoe box." That sounded unhelpfully vague to me. I strongly advise cutting the templates out from the paper sheets on a large, stable table surface that's protected with several sheets of newspaper.
I did not bother to cut out the interior openings (such as the circles and slits) of the paper templates before pasting them onto the cardboard, as you can see in the upper left photo with the Lens Holder. On the lower right is the same piece with the template paper peeled off.Note that I ignored the two curved tabs at the bottom of the template.
This will make removing these interior openings easier than trying to cut them out in a single clockwise or counter-clockwise path.On the right is the Lens Holder fully cut out from the pizza box, without the template paper.
Alas, all that finely intricate cutting I did, which I was proud of, was for naught.)Next you place the tabs on the top of the Lens Holder (the edge opposite where the nose cutout is) into the corresponding slots on the Viewer Case.

You place the ring magnet in a certain spot on the outside of the viewer (upper left photo), and the ceramic disc magnet goes in the same spot on the inside of the viewer (lower left photo). I cut both my templates and cardboard pieces upon a copy of a tabloid-format newsweekly that was folded open.After carefully cutting out the templates with the X-Acto, I used the glue stick to paste them onto the bottom interior of the pizza box.
I also chose not to cut certain outer edge areas of the paper templates because these edges require more precision. Then brace it all by sliding the Vertical Divider's tabs into the appropriate slots on the other two pieces (upper right). The inside disc magnet stays in place, but you can slide the outside ring magnet down with your finger, which magnetically triggers functions in a Cardboard app running on the Android phone inside the viewer.
It's broken up into three parts on the printouts, and you have to join them together into one as I've done here.
The fully assembled template for the Viewer Case was longer than either the length or width of the pizza box.
I figured I could save the effort for when I needed to cut out the final cardboard pieces.The bottom photo shows a piece of the Viewer Case that I cut out from the pizza box using the utility knife and ruler.
Similarly, I cut out as rectangles what are depicted on the template as two rounded openings. After that you just keep wrapping the Viewer Case around the Lens holder (lower left), inserting tabs into slots as you go along.
When you let go, the ring magnet will slide back up because it's drawn by the magnetic pull of the inside disc magnet. Instead of buying a pre-made kit, I decided to try making a Cardboard viewer from scratch using Google's downloadable instructions.
The second major template is for the part I'll christen the Lens Holder and the third is for the Vertical Divider.At this point I realized that Google doesn't provide specific guidance or practical tips on how to use these templates to cut out the parts from the cardboard. So I split this template into two, figuring that I could join the separate cardboard pieces with masking tape.
The template paper is still stuck to it.Using the X-Acto knife (upper right photo), I cut out the openings and cut away the curved edges.

Google's official Cardboard kit included a piece of double-sided tape to hold the left flap of the Viewer Case into place, thus securing the entire thing together. Otherwise, it was perfect: The bottom surface of the box had no stains, was not bent and was a large, smooth square. I did this by carefully stabbing through the template and cardboard, gently sawing a little along the path of the black lines, pulling out the X-Acto, stabbing through another part of the line, sawing, and so on. If you have small children, it's a good idea to glue the inside disc magnet in place as a precaution against the magnets coming off and becoming a choking hazard. Follow along to see how I did it -- and to pick up some tips and tricks for making your own.
I found some at Amazon for $10 a pair plus $8 shipping.In the end, I decided not to buy those.
I used the utility knife to make long cuts into the cardboard, while the X-Acto knife was for making cuts that required more precision (such as corners, curves or narrow slits) and for cutting out the template pieces. Instead, I cannibalized the lenses for my Cardboard viewer from a paperboard viewer I was given a few years ago: a piece of marketing swag used to promote a new line of cars in 3D stereoscopic pictures. For me it was an absolute must to have both kinds of knives at hand, as well as the straight-edge ruler to help either knife make long, straight cuts into cardboard or paper. The magnets are mighty strong and they've never detached from the viewer as I've used the switch.The Velcro fasteners hold the viewer's "back door" in place once you've put a smartphone inside it (right photo). You stretch it across the fold that acts as a hinge for the door (also shown in the right photo). Since Google lists this as an optional component, I chose not to spend the money.You'll also need access to a printer (and standard printer paper) to print out Google's templates.

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