LiDAR on the iPhone 12 | What’s This Laser Tech All About?
If you’ve heard the term LiDAR on the grapevine in recent months and, like half our team, don’t have the foggiest idea what it is, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s just get a few things out of the way. No, LiDAR is not a droid from Star Wars. Nope, nothing to do with lie detectors either. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, a unique new feature of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max design made possible by a new laser scanner you’ll see nestled among the three rear cameras.
Before you start pointing your iPhone at your enemies and trying to vaporize them, it’s worth noting these lasers are harmless invisible beams of infrared light – much like those that connect your TV with the remote.
But LiDAR is way cooler than that. It can figure out how far away an object is by shooting out these beams of light and timing how long it takes them to bounce back. Think of it as a radar on your iPhone, except it uses lasers instead of radio waves. Pew pew!
Cool! So what is LiDAR used for?
LiDAR isn’t actually a new invention. It started being used decades ago for very advanced applications, like NASA’s Apollo 15 mission which used LiDAR technology to map the surface of the moon – kind of like Google Earth for space. More recently, it’s used by the police to detect speeding cars, by archeologists during excavations and for self-driving cars. But LiDAR has only just grown up enough to start being used in phones like the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max for a bunch of really cool everyday benefits.
A massive boost to augmented reality (AR)
One of the biggest strengths of LiDAR is that it makes AR more accurate. Whether you’re turning your head into a donut with a Snapchat filter, playing a game of Pokémon Go or checking how a piece of Ikea furniture might look in the living room, LiDAR makes big accuracy improvements. Not only that, but it also helps AR apps launch and maps your surroundings more quickly. Neat!
Wait, what’s AR again? Well, you see, virtual reality (VR) is when you are in a fully simulated environment – goggles and all. AR is the middle ground where virtual stuff mixes with real surroundings, like using a filter that puts a parrot on your shoulder for video calls.
Better, brighter photos at night
Every time you take a picture, your Apple iPhone is pretty good at figuring out where it needs to focus (though you might sometimes give it a quick tap on something in the frame). That said, it starts to struggle in low light. LiDAR helps the camera figure out how far away your subject is to improve autofocus in the dark, particularly when you use the built-in Night mode.
According to Apple, LiDAR helps your iPhone focus up to six times faster in low light. It also makes it possible to use portrait mode effects with artsy background blur in darker settings, something we’ve been dying to do for years.
Which iPhones have LiDAR?
LiDAR is new to the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, which means you won’t get it if you opt for the iPhone 12 or 12 Mini. There’s a good chance it comes standard on future Apple phones, at least until an even crazier version of the tech comes in to take its place.
Terence is a freelancer who does many things including writing for blogs, investing, digital marketing, and helping out his family business.
He has been a big Circles.Life fan ever since joining the network in 2016 and has helped write for the Circles.Life blog ever since the launch. He hopes to inspire and help other people make better lifestyle choices, and help them improve their quality of their lifestyle as a result (sometimes even while saving money!).