What is the LIDAR scanner of my iPhone and what is it for?.
What is the LIDAR scanner of my iPhone and what is it for?
While the appearance of an additional camera on the iPhone or iPad is clearly noticeable, equipping new apple devices with a LIDAR sensor is ignored by many. What kind of technology is it and how useful is it to a wide range of users?
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What is LiDAR?
The word LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) literally means light detection and ranging. This technology is actively used in geodesy and cartography, where the light emitter is a laser.
Instead, in short-range systems, it is successfully replaced by LEDs. The principle of operation of LiDAR is quite simple: the emitter emits light waves, and the receiver receives the reflected signal returned by the body, taking into account the impact of the scattering medium. From the response time, it is possible to determine the distance to an object.
This is how LiDAR sees the world around it:
The LiDAR sensor first appeared in the rear camera unit in 2020 with the release of the iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro / iPhone 12 Pro Max.
LiDAR on iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max
LiDAR on iPad Pro
What is the LiDAR used for on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro?
The LiDAR on the iPhone could be in demand today and perform practical tasks. We can talk about the application of technology to capture the most natural portraits with a natural bokeh effect. LiDAR helps to focus on hair, ears and other parts of the human or animal body. In the future, the capability of this technology could be extended to portrait videos as well. But that will happen in future versions of the operating system or even with the release of new iPhone models.
It seems possible to use LiDAR for the ultra-precise measurement of physical distances. In practical life, any owner of a current iPhone or iPad with that technology would have no problem accurately measuring the dimensions of their floor: the length and height of the walls, the curvature of the floor. But it is not about satisfying curiosity, but rather that this information can be useful when carrying out construction work. Rangefinders and levels are normally needed, but a mobile phone with a lidar can be substituted. There are already applications that use lidar to scan the contours of a workspace and then create a model of the production area by placing three-dimensional objects on it.
And thanks to the excellent performance of the LiDAR sensor not only during daylight hours, but also in the dark, this camera is used to enhance Night Mode on the iPhone and iPad Pro range. The sensor perfectly detects objects, allowing autofocus up to 6 times faster. The result is a drastic reduction in the number of night photos where the focus is out of focus.
There is another application for LiDAR technology. According to the company, this element was the missing piece for the implementation of revolutionary augmented reality applications. Apple’s LIDAR sensor is capable of measuring the distance of objects up to 5 meters away, and works both indoors and outdoors. The operating system combines this information with data from cameras and motion sensors and processes it using computer vision algorithms. This helps iPhone and iPad Pro to place AR objects in the scanned scene faster and better. There is no doubt that thanks to LIDAR, the level of AR will increase, giving a new experience to the capabilities of apple technology.
It must be said that the company has been trying to break into the field of augmented reality for a long time, working on the corresponding software and hardware as early as 2017. At that time, the ARKit platform was introduced to develop similar applications for iOS. Since then, every major OS update has come with a demo of AR technology, be it Minecraft or Lego. And every improvement to the camera or processor implicitly promises another improvement in technology as well. But there aren’t many real-world applications yet.
An ARKit-based app automatically and instantly obtains information about the location of objects in the camera’s field of view, improving motion capture to engage people. The advent of the LIDAR sensor has led to an update to ARKit and a new Scene Geometry API, which could allow the new scanner to be used to implement previously impossible scenarios.
It is quite possible that the LIDAR sensor will give a new impetus to this story. And applications that take advantage of the new feature of apple devices are already appearing. For example, Apple Arcade has introduced Hot Lava, a game that turns the living room into a gaming surface.
The device scans a room and places a virtual lava field and platform for the character to jump off. The Shapr3D app allows you to scan a room and then create a 3D model of it for further editing. IKEA Place has a similar functionality, which, having analyzed the room, will help you choose furniture for it.
The LIDAR scanner will enhance the Roulette app to calculate the dimensions of material objects. It features a virtual tape measure for more detailed measurements.
Until now, the realm of augmented reality has been a surprising, but by no means inseparable, part of our lives. Apple is systematically, step by step, doing everything it can to rectify this. One cannot but celebrate this intention to diversify our future. And the LIDAR scanner is an important tool on the way to realizing the technology.