LiDAR is a great feature on iPhones that you might not even know about. You can use LiDAR to blend the real and virtual worlds if you have a compatible iPhone.
Since its introduction in 2020, we’ve seen a growing list of apps that take advantage of the iPhone’s LiDAR scanner. Whether you’re a game developer, interior designer, or tech enthusiast, there are plenty of great ways to use LiDAR on your iPhone.
So if you own an iPhone 12 Pro or newer Pro model, read on as we’ll discuss five ways to use your LiDAR scanner right now.
What is LiDAR?
LiDAR is different from technologies like RADAR. LiDAR is short for “light detection and ranging.” Long story short, LiDAR involves shooting an invisible laser into its surroundings. The LiDAR sensors then use data from the laser to detect information about the shape of objects and their distance from you.
LiDAR is used in many different industries, including aviation, satellites, and autonomous vehicles. But recently, LiDAR technology has made its way into the smartphone market.
Apple is keeping LiDAR exclusive to iPhone Pro models for now. Therefore, only the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro, and 2020 or newer iPad Pro models have built-in LiDAR sensors.
1. Take even better photos
iPhones have been taking great photos for years. Many people love using iPhones for photography because they take high-resolution, detailed, and color-accurate images. But one thing that smartphones, in general, struggle with is low-light photography.
iPhones can now use LiDAR to detect how far away people or objects are and then use that data to autofocus faster and more accurately. In fact, Apple says that iPhones with LiDAR can focus up to six times faster, even in low-light conditions.
Faster autofocus on your iPhone camera means your pictures will have more detail and less blur, even if you don’t have the best lighting.
2. Take precise measurements
One of the simplest yet most valuable ways to use the LiDAR sensor on your iPhone is to take measurements without a ruler.
There are some great LiDAR apps for iPhone and iPadbut one of the best is a built-in app called Measure, which uses your iPhone’s camera to approximate measurements.
A LiDAR-equipped iPhone can detect very precise information about the size of objects and the distance between them. That allows the iPhone to create much more precise measurements.
So if you’re working on a DIY home improvement project or want to see if that new sofa is actually going to fit through your door, LiDAR can be a lifesaver.
3. Immersive AR Games
In 2016, we saw Pokémon Go take the world by storm. The game used AR technology to bring virtual Pokémon to real world locations. Pokémon Go was many people’s first experience with augmented reality, but now with LiDAR, you can take augmented reality gaming to the next level.
Games like RC Club use your iPhone’s LiDAR sensor to scan your surroundings and create an augmented reality playground. Unlike most AR games, the use of LiDAR allows the game to build an incredibly detailed virtual world that takes terrain, height, and physics into account. That allows virtual objects to interact with the real world on the screen.
We’re still in the early days of LiDAR-enabled mobile gaming, and many still feel like tech demos. But expect to see more and more AR games take advantage of LiDAR in the future.
4. Redecorate your house
In the past, a major home renovation required a lot of imagination, planning, and luck. Fortunately, with LiDAR, you can visualize changes and explore ideas right from your iPhone, taking out a lot of guesswork.
Apps like IKEA Place use LiDAR to place virtual models of furniture and home decor right in your house. That way, you can see exactly how your new furniture will look and fit inside your home before you pull the trigger on a big purchase.
Because LiDAR can accurately calculate size and distance, virtual furniture models will fit inside your home just like the real thing. LiDAR can make decorating (or redecorating) your home easier than ever.
5. Scanning 3D models
In recent years, we’ve seen some of the top-grossing movies and triple-A games take advantage of 3D scanning or photogrammetry. This technology allows developers to scan real life objects and bring them into the virtual world. But with LiDAR, you can now use the same techniques the professionals do on your own projects.
Trying to recreate 3D models of real-world objects by hand can be a time-consuming process. However, an app like Epic Games RealityScan allows you to use your iPhone’s camera and LiDAR sensors to stitch together a 3D model on the fly. You can then transfer that model to your projects in Blender or Unreal Engine.
Using the power of your iPhone’s LiDAR to scan detailed 3D models can save you hours of development time and a lot of money. So if you’re into game development or 3D modeling, LiDAR can significantly boost your creativity and workflow.
6. Creation of virtual reality worlds
LiDAR is excellent for creating 3D models of objects in the real world. But did you know that you can also use LiDAR to create entire virtual spaces?
You can use LiDAR to generate virtual copies of real life locations. You can create a 2D map of your room or even map an entire 3D world; The possibilities are almost endless.
LiDAR can help you bridge the gap between the virtual and the real world. For example, if you are selling your house or want to rent it out, you can use LiDAR to create a 3D model of it.
Potential buyers can then take a virtual tour before scheduling a real-life visit. And combining this technology with a VR headset like Meta Quest 2 can give you an even more immersive experience.
LiDAR has a lot of potential
We’re still in the early days of LiDAR on the iPhone, but the technology has great potential. Unfortunately, it’s a pro-only feature for now. Therefore, you may need to update your iPhone before you can really take advantage of it.
However, expect to see more Apple devices with LiDAR sensors released in the coming years. From interior design to game development, there are already many different ways to start using LiDAR right now, and this is just the beginning.