6 Exciting Ways to Use LiDAR on iPhone

LiDAR is a great feature on iPhones that you might not even know about. You can use LiDAR to blend the real and virtual world if you have a compatible iPhone.

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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 tons of great ways to use LiDAR on your iPhone.

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So if you have an iPhone 12 Pro or a newer Pro model, read on as we discuss five ways you can use its LiDAR scanner right now.

What is LiDAR?

iPhone camera module

LiDAR is different from technologies like RADAR. LiDAR is short for “light detection and ranging.” Long story short, LiDAR is all about shooting an invisible laser around you. LiDAR sensors use laser data 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 entered the smartphone market.

Apple is keeping LiDAR exclusive to the Pro models of iPhones for now. Therefore, only the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPad Pro 2020 or newer models have built-in LiDAR sensors.

1. Taking even better photos

Taking a photo of mountains with an iPhone

iPhones have been taking great photos for years. Many people love using iPhones for photography because they take high-resolution, detailed, and color-accurate photos. But one thing smartphones generally 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 automatically focus more quickly and accurately. In fact, Apple says iPhones with LiDAR can focus up to six times faster, even in low-light conditions.

The faster autofocus on your iPhone’s camera means your pictures will have more detail and less blur, even if you don’t have the best lighting.

2. Taking accurate measurements

Measure an object with an iPhone

One of the simplest yet most valuable ways to use the LiDAR sensor on your iPhone is to take measurements without the need for a ruler.

There are some great LiDAR apps for iPhone and iPad, but one of the best is a built-in app called Measure, which uses your iPhone’s camera to approximate measurements.

An iPhone equipped with LiDAR can detect very precise information about the size of objects and their distance from each other. This allows the iPhone to create much more accurate measurements.

So if you’re working on a DIY home improvement project or want to see if that new couch actually fits in your doorway, 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 AR 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. This allows virtual objects to interact with the real world on the screen.

We’re still in the early days of LiDAR-enabled mobile games, and many still feel like tech demos. But expect to see more and more AR games taking advantage of LiDAR in the future.

4. Redecorating your home

Using an AR furniture app

Back in the day, a major home renovation involved a lot of imagination, planning and luck. Fortunately, with LiDAR, you can visualize changes and explore ideas right from your iPhone, eliminating a lot of the guesswork.

Apps like IKEA Place use LiDAR to place virtual models of furniture and home decor right in your home. This way, you can see exactly how the 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 of 3D models

3D model of a Porsche sports car

In recent years, we’ve seen some of the biggest triple-A movies and 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 as the pros on your own projects.

Trying to recreate 3D models of real-world objects by hand can be a very time-consuming process. However, an app like Epic Games’ RealityScan lets you 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 and a lot of money. So whether you’re into game development or 3D modeling, LiDAR can significantly increase your creativity and workflow.

6. Creating VR worlds

Woman using virtual reality headset

LiDAR is great for creating 3D models of objects in the real world. But did you know 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 world in 3D; the possibilities are almost endless.

LiDAR can help you bridge the gap between the virtual and the real world. For example, if you sell your house or want to rent it, you can use LiDAR to create a 3D model of it.

Potential buyers can then take a virtual tour before setting up a real-life visit. And combining this technology with a VR headset like the 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 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.


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