DIY Dorm: Smartphone Projector

DIY Dorm: Smartphone Projector

Nowadays, we can do almost anything on a smart phone: send emails, play games, and even watch movies. Sometimes, however, squinting at the small screen can leave our eyes feeling tired. Rather than watch a movie or show on the tiny screen, why not magnify it via your very own projector? Check out this fun and simple addition to our DIY Dorm series:

What You’ll Need:

  • Shoe box
  • Duct tape
  • X-acto knife (works better than scissors)
  • Magnifying glass (try a larger lens – aim for 3-4 inch diameter)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Phone stand (or something to act as a stand for your phone)

What You’ll Do:

Duct tape any openings.

1.Cover all holes and gaps in the box using the duct tape. You don’t want to allow any light to enter or leave the box except for where you will place the magnifying glass.

Mark around the lens.

2.Go to the front and center of the box (on the shorter side). Place the magnifying glass there and mark around it so you will know where to cut. I suggest cutting a slightly smaller hole that you can push the magnifying glass lens into.

3.Using your X-Acto knife, slowly cut out the hole you just marked. Patch up any rough edges with duct tape.

Push the lens into the opening.

4.From the inside of the box, push the lens into the opening. Tape the handle to the inside of the box (to keep the lens in place).

5.Line up your smartphone or iPod with the magnifying glass and mark this space. This is so you will know where to place the phone whenever you use it. Place your “phone stand” on the spot you just marked and glue it down (if you’d like it to be permanent).

Phone Stands

6.You’re ready to use your new projector! Turn the screen brightness up to the highest setting on our phone and open the video you wish to view. You will have to place the phone upside down in order to have the picture appear right-side up.

** Most phones will continue to flip the image so it is right-side-up. Locking the orientation usually fixes this problem. Find out how to do this on the iPhone here.

7.Just turn off the lights and – voila! – you’re all set to go. A darker room will show a clearer image.

Fancy technology? Maybe not…but plenty of fun just the same! You may have to play around with the project and figure out what works best for you and the specific materials you have.

Try out this project for yourself and let us know how it goes! Do you have any tips to share? Post a comment below!

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46 Responses to DIY Dorm: Smartphone Projector

  1. 07.09.12

    This is really cool!

  2. Sara

    Don’t iPhones automatically “turn” the image so that it is always right-side-up? How do you make the image up-side-down?

    • 07.09.12

      In the description just after step 6 it says that there is a way to lock the image in place click the link and it tells you

    • Callie

      All you do is double press the home button, slide your finger to the right as if you were unlocking your phone, click the button to the far left so it has a picture of a lock in it.

  3. Patty

    Sara, you didn’t read the whole story above “** Most phones will continue to flip the image so it is right-side-up. Locking the orientation usually fixes this problem. Find out how to do this on the iPhone here.” between #6 & #7,

  4. 07.10.12

    In smartphone accelerometers are used to show direction. Using them the smartphone knows where is up or down.

  5. Graham

    Watch out for the older smartphones that can overheat when in use. It might drain the battery, but resist plugging in the phone while using it to project.

  6. Karly

    I wish there was an example of how it looks once the project is finished. This sounds like a lot of fun but if it turns out kinda dopey looking I wouldn’t want to invest a couple hours putting this together:-(

    • Jordan

      it literally took me five minutes to do. if you are good with an xacto knife, it won’t look bad at all. there’s no need for all that duct tape.

  7. 07.21.12

    This is AWESOME!!!! I’m going to try it!

  8. Nick

    This is very cool.. I just built a camera obscura. Obviously this works on the same principle. I can’t wait to try it.

  9. Jordan

    it got it to work, but how do you make the picture larger? the picture I’m getting is a little bit larger than the display on the phone.

    • Drew Wohlford

      Move it farther away from the wall

  10. Trish

    Can anyone link me to a picture of it in use?

  11. Britt

    wish i could play movies on my phone…

    • Rachael

      if you have a bigger box and lense the same idea could work for your laptop!

  12. Kayla Watson

    It didnt work at all for me! I must have done something worng?!?!?

    • J.T.

      Kayla, you might have to see if your box is big enough for your lens. If your phone is within a certain distance, it won’t show an image at any distance from the wall. I had to lengthen my box to make it work. A 4″ lens that’s about 1/4″ thick is just too big for the box I was using lol

  13. Rebecca

    Mine didn’t work either.. I see a white screen but te actual video does not come through.. I agree a (successful) finished project or video would be so helpful.. Does the size/shape of shoebox come into play??

  14. Rachael

    if, say you wanted to project a video from netflix how would you keep the screen upsidedown?? the link on step
    6 only works for things like messaging… not in apps. also even if i did work in apps i dont see how it would be helpful…. you can only lock it in portrait mode… not landscape… someone please help?!??

  15. 07.31.12

    I didn’t work for us either.

  16. 08.07.12

    This video explains it and shows the end result.

  17. 08.07.12

    I love this! I have a pretty big lens so I had to lengthen my box as well, but I love it! Took me less than an hour and I’m going to cover mine in scrapbook paper to avoid the ‘dopey looking’ concerns of others :-)

    • Sandybn

      Scrapbook paper is a great idea!

  18. Morgan

    (stupid question alert!!) Do you think it would work with and ipad if i used a bigger box

    • Sandybn

      Hey Morgan – That’s a good question! I’m not sure whether or not that method would work (haven’t tried it!), but it’d definitely be worthwhile to test out. I’m not sure whether you could find a lens big enough or if that image would be clear, but it can’t hurt to try!

      • Safia

        I made a projector for my ipad3 with a large box and a magnifying glass that had a 4 in diameter. It worked well, just make sure the back light is all the way up. You may want an external speaker too. I couldn’t hear Netflix very loud unless I sat right next the the projector.

  19. Danielle

    Where can you buy the magnifying glass?

    • Sandybn

      Hey Danielle – hardware stores, some grocery stores, and department stores are all good places to start!

      • marissa

        vison centers at walmart actually sell magnifying glasses as big a piece of paper maybe bigger so it might be perfect for an iPad if the magnification is strong enough!

        • Sandybn

          Thanks for the tip, Marissa!

    • Josh

      You can pick up a 3″ at ace hardware.

  20. Nana

    Where can you get a magnifying glass like that?

    • Sandybn

      You can find magnifying glasses in a few places. Hardware stores, some grocery stores, and department stores are good places to start.

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  23. Sarah

    I don’t really understand where/how you’re supposed to position the iPhone? Does it go inside the box too upside down and thats what projects the image, or where’s it supposed to go??

    • Sandybn

      Yes, it goes in the box. Line up your smartphone or iPod with the magnifying glass and mark this space. This is so you will know where to place the phone whenever you use it. Place your “phone stand” on the spot you just marked and glue it down (if you’d like it to be permanent).

  24. Nhaj

    This won’t work. For it to project your phone needs to project a super bright light. Your phone doesnt have enough lumens to project a picture to your wall from a distance. Unless you bring the box an inche closer to the wall and get a projection as small as the screen of your phone it self.

    • Sandybn

      It works, we promise! I had to increase the brightness on my phone and play around with different lenses to get it to work. The darker the room, the better. Keep trying!

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  26. 10.03.12

    Very gοod blog poѕt. I absolutely love this website.

    Keep wгiting!

  27. Katie

    It won’t work.
    Please help! I was so excited but…

  28. Josh

    It works but quality aint the best

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