Lidar is the iPad Pro’s Unexpected New Feature
Apple announced that their newest iPad Pro model tablets would go on sale with a suite of new features and tools. Rather than sticking to depth-sensing cameras, Apple has incorporated a lidar sensor on board the iPad itself – a first for Apple.
The two new iPad Pro models that have a lidar scanning onboard are the 11 and 12.9-inch models, and are designed to enhance 3D photography as well as support developers that are using ARKit for the development of augmented reality (AR) apps.
Rather than using a third-party lidar, they seem to have developed their own proprietary version that they are simply referring to as “LiDAR Scanner.” It has a reported range of 5 metres, and “operates at the photon level at nanosecond speeds” which, one can assume means it is some flavour of the small lidar sensors that we’ve been hearing a lot about lately. The benefit of this range might be to fill in smaller, more detailed areas that larger-scale scans have difficulty with.
Fundamentally, the iPad Pro’s lidar is used to create depth mapping points that, when combined with camera and motion sensor data, can create a “more detailed understanding of a scene” according to Apple. With the help of the lidar sensor, the ARKit app can get better placement of real world and augmented reality objects, better motion capture, and occlusion – all of which help an augmented reality experience seem even more realistic. A scene does not need a long “scanning” period before AR objects can be placed, which makes for a more seamless integration of AR elements. API developers can also use the new lidar scanner to push beyond what’s currently possible using only depth cameras.
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