Turn a Smartphone into a 3-D Viewer

    September, 2015:

    Kids, would you like to tinker with hologram-like images in the comfort of our own home? You can create amazing 3D visions that can be projected from your smartphone. 

    Here is what you'll need:

    • Graph paper
    • CD case
    • Tape
    • Pen
    • Scissors
    • Smartphone
    • Box cutter (for an adult partner)

    First you need to draw a perfect Isosceles Trapezoid shape on the graph paper. The dimensions are 1 cm x 3.5 cm x 6 cm. Next, take off the sides of the CD case, place the trapezoid template on top, and have an adult partner cut out the shape with the box cutter. Once the first trapezoid is cut out, your adult partner can use this as a template to cut out three more just like it. This is difficult to cut and takes some skill. As an alternative, there is a link to buying a pre-made reflector (

    Fasten the four plastic trapazoid shapes together in an open pyramid-shaped vase using some tape (glue doesn't work well); tape the 3.5 cm sides together. To start projecting images, you'll need to load hologram-specific videos from YouTube, and Mrwhosetheboss links to a few of these on his YouTube page. For example, for blue jellyfish go to

    Place the phone flat on the table, load the video, and place the pyramid vase on top. Turn off the lights and you'll see a full, 360-degree animated visual from the side, level with the table. Here's a video of the construction. 

    A hologram is a photographic recording of a light field. The hologram itself is not an image. It is an encoding of the light field as an interference pattern. When suitably lit, the interference pattern diffracts light into a reproduction of the original light field and the objects that were in it appear to still be there. Holography should not be confused with other 3D display technologies, which can produce similar results but are based on conventional lens imaging.


    Editor, Dr. Kathleen Carrado Gregar, Argonne National Laboratory