What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

When you look at a computer screen, you’re looking into a virtual world. It’s a world that only exists on that computer, you can’t touch it or feel it and when you look away from the computer screen, that world disappears. With virtual reality, you can step inside that virtual world, look at it from all different angles and in the future, you might even be able to touch or feel it!

For this project, we will be using a free tool called panoform that takes a 2D image and converts it into a 360 degree photo that, when using a special virtual reality viewer, allows you to look around and explore.


  • Paper.
  • Markers/crayons/colored pencils.
  • Smartphone – any internet connected iPhone or Android device will work for this activity.
  • VR viewer – if you don’t already have some kind of standard VR viewer, you can purchase one for as low as $5 or even make your own.
  • Printed grids or blank paper. 0Tip: If you want some guidance on how to draw in 360 degrees, you can print out a grid to frame out your drawing. If you have access to a printer, go to www.panoform.com, click on “GRIDS” on the top right, and choose the grid you’d like to use. We’ve used the grid below.

Don’t have a printer? No problem! This grid only helps to guide your drawing to be in 360. If you don’t want to use a grid, measure and draw a 5” x 11” rectangle on a sheet of paper and use that as a guide for your drawing.


Let’s Create

Once you have your grid or rectangle set up, and have gathered the rest of your materials, it’s time to create your drawing! Remember, when the drawing you create goes through the Panoform app, it’s going to be transformed into a 360 image. Imagine taking your flat piece of paper, and folding it into a circle. In the virtual world, you’re standing in the middle of this circle, looking around at your drawing.

The printed grid can also be very helpful to envision how the image will be converted. The lines in this grid represent the four walls of a square room. In the image below, the blue lines along the grid indicate the walls as well as a ceiling and floor directly above and below. It may look like there are five walls, but the first and last walls are two halves of one wall. When this drawing is converted to 360 degrees, the two half walls will connect, and the dog painting will be one. In this drawing, the location of the lamp indicates the center of the ceiling, and the potted plant indicates the center of the floor.

While the grid is a fun guide, is not required! Feel free to make your drawing as freeform as you want.

Once you are finished your drawing, you are ready to convert to VR! On your smartphone, go to www.panoform.com and click the red “try it” button. When prompted, select “Take Photo.” When taking the photo, make sure the camera is directly above the image, avoiding shadows. Try to keep the sides of the image within your grid lines/rectangular frame.

When you’re happy with your photo, select “Use Photo.” From here, the image is converted to 360 degrees. You can use your finger to pan around the image. You’ll notice if you scroll up and down, the center top and bottom sort of look like the north and south poles on a globe.

While we want our images in 360 degrees, we cannot create the experience of virtual reality with only one screen. Since we have two eyes, we need to split the screen in two. On the bottom left of the image, there is a small gray icon that looks like a VR viewer. Click on this icon to split the screen in two. Once it is split in two, rotate your phone horizontally and place the phone inside the viewer. The two screens combined with the two lenses in the viewer will create a virtual environment once you put the viewers over your eyes and omit all other light.

Put on your headset and have fun exploring! Remember, your drawing is all around you! Make sure to spin around, look up and look down!


Remix It

Drawing is just one exciting way to dive into DIY virtual reality! There are lots of ways to create unique virtual environments using simple materials. Our team at NYSCI had fun exploring lots of materials and variations. Some things we were particularly excited about include:

  • Textural Collages: Magazines, colored tissue paper, origami.
  • 3D materials: LEDs, feathers, sequins, bells, clothespins.