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Why do I need a LIDAR scanner in iPad Pro and what is it?

If the appearance of an additional camera in the iPhone or iPad is clearly noticeable, the equipment of new Apple devices with the LIDAR sensor is ignored by many. What kind of technology is this and how much is it needed for a wide range of users?

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What is LIDAR?

The very word LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is literally deciphered as “detection and determination of range using light.” This technology is actively used in geodesy, cartography, where the light emitter is a laser

In near-range systems, it is successfully replaced by LEDs. The principle of operation of LIDAR is quite simple – the emitter emits light waves, and the receiver receives a reflected signal returned from the body, while taking into account the effect of the scattering medium. Based on the response time, you can determine the distance to the object.

The new iPad Pro (review), which appeared in March 2020, just got the LIDAR sensor on the rear camera unit.

LIDAR Sensor in iPad Pro

According to the company, this element was missing for the implementation of revolutionary augmented reality applications. Apple’s LIDAR sensor is capable of measuring distances to objects up to 5 meters away, both indoors and outdoors. The operating system combines this information with the data of cameras, motion sensors and processes using computer vision algorithms. This helps iPad Pro quickly and better place augmented reality objects on the analyzed scene. There is no doubt that thanks to LIDAR, the AR level will increase, giving new sensations from the capabilities of Apple technology.

I must say that the company has long been trying to master the field of augmented reality, working on the corresponding software and hardware since 2017. Then the ARKit platform was introduced for developing similar applications for iOS. Since then, every major update to the operating system appears with an AR technology demo, whether it’s Minecraft or Lego. And each camera or processor improvement implicitly promises another technology improvement. But there are still not many real possibilities for its application.

The application created on the basis of ARKit automatically and instantly receives information about the placement of objects in the field of view of the camera, improved motion capture to engage people. The advent of the LIDAR sensor led to the update of ARKit and the emergence of a new Scene Geometry API, which will just allow using the new scanner to implement previously impossible scenarios.

It is possible that the LIDAR sensor will give a new impetus to this story. And already there are applications using the new feature of Apple devices. So, in the Apple Arcade game appeared Hot Lava, which turns a living room into a playing surface.


The device scans the room and places in it a virtual field of lava and a platform for jumping the character. The Shapr3D application allows you to scan a room, and then creates its three-dimensional model for subsequent editing. IKEA Place also has similar functionality, which, after analyzing the room, will help you choose furniture for it.


The LIDAR scanner will improve the Roulette application for calculating the dimensions of material objects. A virtual roulette appeared in it for more detailed measurements.

While the sphere of augmented reality is an amazing, but not at all an integral part of our life. Apple is systematically, step by step, doing everything to fix it. One can only welcome such an intention to diversify our future. And the LIDAR scanner is an important tool in the implementation of the technology. There is no doubt that the sensor will appear in future Apple devices.

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