LiDAR is an excellent feature on iPhones that you might not have even known 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 many 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 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.” To make things short, LiDAR involves shooting an invisible laser into your surroundings. 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 self-driving vehicles. But recently, LiDAR technology has made its way into the smartphone market.

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

1. Taking Even Better Photos

Taking a photo of mountains with an iPhone

iPhones have been taking great pictures for years now. Many people love using iPhones for photography because they take high-res, detailed, and color-accurate pictures. 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 auto-focus more quickly and accurately. In fact, Apple says iPhones with LiDAR can focus up to six times faster, even in low-light conditions.

Faster auto-focus on your iPhone’s camera means your pictures will have more detail and less blurriness, even if you don’t have the best lighting.

2. Taking Accurate Measurements

Measuring an object with an iPhone

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

There are some great LiDAR apps for the iPhone and iPad, but 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 highly accurate information about how big objects are and their distance from each other. That lets the iPhone create much more accurate measurements.

So, if you’re working on a DIY home improvement project or want to see if that new couch is actually going to fit through your doorway, LiDAR can be a lifesaver.

3. Immersive AR Gaming

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 to create an augmented-reality playground. Unlike most AR games, using LiDAR lets the game build an incredibly detailed virtual world that takes into account terrain, height, and physics. That lets virtual objects interact with the real world on 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 take advantage of LiDAR in the future.

4. Redecorating Your House

Using an AR furniture app

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

Apps like IKEA Place use LiDAR to place virtual models of furniture and home decor directly into your house. That way, you can see exactly how 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 house just like the real thing. LiDAR can make decorating (or redecorating) your home easier than ever.

5. Scanning 3D Models

3D model of a Porsche sports car

In the last few years, we’ve seen some of the biggest blockbuster movies and triple-A games take advantage of 3D scanning or photogrammetry. This technology lets developers 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 an extremely time-consuming process. However, an app like RealityScan from Epic Games 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 time and lots of money. So, if you’re into game development or 3D modeling, LiDAR can significantly boost your creativity and workflow.

6. Creating VR Worlds

Woman using a VR headset

LiDAR is excellent 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 3D world; the possibilities are almost endless.

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

Then, potential buyers can take a virtual tour before setting up a real-life visit. And pairing this tech 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. So, you might need to upgrade 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 so many different ways you can start using LiDAR right now, and this is just the beginning.


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