No longer a rumor: iPhone 12 Pro models have lidar

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Today Apple unveiled the long-anticipated iPhone 12 lineup. While there have been a plethora of rumors about whether or not the ‘Pro’ version of the iPhone will contain a lidar sensor just like the iPad Pro released earlier this year, this time it turns out the rumors are true. According to Apple the iPhone 12 Pro ($999) will include a lidar chip – a first for mobile phones.

In the launch event from Apple, little time was spent on the lidar compared to its new glass, new chip, new phone, and new ‘computational photography’ capabilities. However, Apple did tout the sensor’s ability to help with photography-related applications, improve augmented reality and the ability to scan and measure rooms.

Apple has seemed to lean on the the sensor’s appeal as a tool to help enhance photography to help their users to understand it. There is so much more potential for its use, though, especially when you consider its ability to potentially democratize photogrammetry and 3D scanning in ways we have not previously seen.

For now, it looks like realizing the lidar’s potential might be up to external app developers – Apple did not demonstrate any on-board apps or features that would utilize the sensor for capturing 3D scans.

A few minutes after the new went public, several companies, including Matterport, expressed their intentions to support the iPhone’s lidar for their existing applications on a blog post. Matterport’s scanning app, released earlier this year, could get a boost in measurement accuracy with the help of lidar.

For other companies, such as SiteScape, and Occipital who have already made apps compatible with the lidar-equipped iPad Pro models, the potential user base for their tools is now poised to grow significantly.

Now that the lidar is out of the rumor mill, it will be interesting to see how/if existing 3D companies reach down into this consumer product to create innovative new applications. We’ve now reached the day where there’s a 3D scanner potentially in reach for the average consumer – but there are business and enterprise applications waiting to be developed as well.

The sensors are here – the only question left to be answered… is what we will do with them.

 

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About Author

Carla Lauter

Carla Lauter is the editor of SPAR3D.com and the SPAR 3D Newsletter. Before joining SPAR 3D, Carla spent 10 years on NASA and National Science Foundation funded projects focusing on Earth science and communication. She has worked on web-based outreach and online interactives for NASA Earth Science, including products for satellite missions measuring sea level, salinity and hyperspectral ocean color.

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