8 Cool Ways to Use LiDAR on Your iPhone and iPad

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

The latest generations of iPhone Pro and iPad Pro offer a useful and powerful feature that you may not even know about. Built directly into the device, the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner emits a laser to more accurately measure distances to surrounding objects, a benefit that manifests itself in two different ways.

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First, LiDAR helps the camera take sharper photos, especially in dark conditions. Second, the scanner takes advantage of AR, or augmented reality, to blend the real world and the virtual world. With AR, your phone or tablet can act as a virtual tape measure, showing you what new furniture in your home would look like, scanning and recreating 3D models, and placing you in AR games.

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Introduced in 2020, the LiDAR scanner is available on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Maxand the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max as well as 2020, 2021 and 2022 iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Pro 12.9-inch models Located between the rear cameras, the scanner can detect objects up to 5 meters or 16.5 inches.

1. Take a photo in the dark

Taking a sharp photo with your iPhone can be challenging, especially in low-light situations. Under those conditions, the LiDAR scanner detects the distance from your subject, allowing your camera to accelerate autofocus more quickly.

Also: How to take better photos with iPhone

Apple claims that the LiDAR sensor helps the camera autofocus up to six times faster, a bonus when you need to take the shot before it’s too late. You don’t need to do anything special for this. Just point your phone’s camera and the LiDAR will automatically activate if needed.

Take a photo in the dark

Lance Whitney/ZDNET

2. Measure distances

You need to measure a physical distance but you don’t have a ruler or tape measure. You don’t have to worry when you can use a virtual measure. Included with iOS/iPadOS and downloadable from the App Store, Apple’s free Measure app can determine the distance between any two points, display the dimensions of an object, and tell you if a surface is straight.

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Open the Measure app on your device. To measure the distance between two points, position your phone so that the starting point is at the point inside the circle. Tap the plus icon, move your phone across the area you want to measure, and then tap the plus icon again. The distance appears on the screen.

measure a line

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

To measure an object like a square, position your phone in the same way. Tap the plus icon and move your phone along the first area to measure it. Then double tap on the plus icon. Move your phone to capture the next area and double tap the plus icon again. Continue in this manner until you have captured the entire object. Double tap the plus icon at the end point and the distance for all four sides will appear.

measure a square

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

To determine if an area is level, tap the Level icon on the application toolbar. Tilt your device horizontally or vertically across a surface until the screen changes to 0 and flashes green to indicate that it is level.

Check a level area

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Beyond using Apple’s Measure app, check out other free AR measurement apps on the App Store, including Tape Measure and AR Measure.

3. Test the furniture in your house

Looking for a new desk, chair, table, or other piece of furniture and wondering how it would look and fit in your home? Let the IKEA Place app help you.

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Start by exploring or searching for a specific piece of furniture or other item, including chairs, beds, desks, sofas, lamps, mirrors, clocks, dressers, or bookshelves. When you find an item that interests you, select it. Then, choose an area of ​​your home where you’d like to see the item and tap the check mark. You can then move the item around the room by dragging and dropping it.

Try the furniture in your home

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Some other apps that allow you to virtually locate and view furniture in your home are Wayfair, Housecraft, and Bob’s Discount Furniture.

4. Scan a room

Maybe you’re redecorating an entire room and want to measure it to help with your home improvement efforts. An app to match is Canvas: LiDAR 3D Measurements.

After signing up for a free account, start a new home project, give it a name, and then start your scan. Move your phone around to capture every nook and cranny in the room you want to measure. When you finish scanning, touch the check mark and you can view the scanned area and save or share the scan.

scan a room

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

5. Try on your glasses

Need a new pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses but want to check out some options before heading to the store? The Warby Parker app will allow you to try on virtual glasses to see how they look on you. Explore the different glasses displayed in the app. Find one you like and swipe down from the top of the screen to access the virtual test feature. The glasses then automatically appear on your face, where you can check your appearance.

try on your glasses

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

6. Listen to the description of your surroundings

Designed for people who are blind or have low vision, Microsoft’s Seeing AI acts like a talking camera capable of analyzing and describing nearby people and objects. After launching the app, tap one of the icons at the bottom for the item you want to describe, choosing between short text, a document, a product, a person, a currency, or a scene. Tap the shutter button and the app displays and says a description of the item.

Listen to your surroundings described

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

7. Scan a 3D model

If you want to capture a 3D image of an object in the real world, Scaniverse – 3D Scanner is an effective tool. Launch the app, tap the shutter button, and then select the size of the object you want to scan: small, medium, or large. Move your phone around the object to capture as much of it as possible. Tap the shutter button when you’re done, and then choose how you want to process the scan. You can view the scan of the object by moving it around the screen and then edit and share the scan.

Scan a 3D model

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Other 3D AR scanner apps worth trying include 3D Scanner App, Polycam – LiDAR & 3D Scanner, and ARama!

8. Play a game

Finally, a variety of AR games are available for iPhone and iPad. Here are a few you might want to check out.

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs offers a twist on the usual Angry Birds gameplay by letting you superimpose a virtual island of piggies on the real world and then aim your slingshot to shoot down their buildings.

Play Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

ARia’s Legacy – AR Escape Room plays with the usual escape room scenario by overlaying a virtual room on a real room. Your goal is to discover and use the correct virtual objects to solve the underlying mystery.

Play ARia's Legacy - AR Escape Room

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Who doesn’t like to see how robots fight? With AR Robot, your virtual robots fight to the death in your own home. Choose the room, choose your mechanical champion and let the game begin. Fight for victory by building and customizing your bot and harnessing the right abilities in the heat of battle.

Play AR Robot

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In Defend It! AR, you have to shoot a horde of robots before they take over your living room. But the AR element here is that the robots are breaking through your wall as you fight to catch them before they steal your magic crystal of power.

Play to defend it!  arkansas

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A fun game for adults and children alike is Alice in Wonderland AR quest. In it, a portal opens in your room that takes you to Wonderland, where you meet the White Rabbit, have a tea party, and solve puzzles.

Play the augmented reality quest for Alice in Wonderland

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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