How to Use Your iPhone's LiDAR Technology

Robotic ImagingMay 7, 2021

In September 2020 Apple released the iPhone 12 Pro featuring a new LiDAR sensor that has been accustomed to their iPad Pro line. LiDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges.” (NOAA, 2021) The LiDAR sensor was incorporated into the latest iPhone with the purpose to enhance photos and upgrade AR & VR space while using the iPhone.

How do I use it?

Apps like Canvas are allowing a user to fully unlock the potential of the sensor both in the iPhone and the iPad to digitize their space with millimeter accuracy. Once the scanning is complete Canvas has the ability to export the scan into Revit, SketchUp, 2020 Spaces, and AutoCAD. Canvas Prides themselves on a two day turnaround and a price of $0.10 - $0.15 per sq ft depending on 2D or 3D deliverable as well as the application you are looking for the conversion in. The only limitation of Canvas is that you have to scan each room at a time creating separate models for each room.

Check out the scan we did using Canvas in the Robotic Imaging office using the new iPhone 12 Pro’s LiDAR sensor.

Other Applications

Canvas isn’t the only company to enter the space, popular drone software company Pix4D has a competing application called Pix4DCatch: 3D Scanner. The lacking feature in this app is you are not able to export your model floor plan drawings or 3D from your scan. Rather you are only allowed to view the pointcloud of the scan. This app is more geared towards the construction professional tracking progress on small pieces of a project rather than the project as a whole.

Other Use Cases

The LiDAR sensor has allowed people to rapidly and accurately digitize their environment and enhance their experience in AR/VR. Popular home decor sites such as Amazon, Wayfair, and IKEA have tapped into the LiDAR sensor to allow customers to augment their reality and visualize their space with the pieces that they have an interest in. All these companies have reported a decrease in returns since implementing this technology thus saving time and money on returns by unhappy customers.

With LiDAR becoming a mainstream feature we anticipate more apps like Canvas and Pix4DCatch to be developed. As well as other tech companies such as Samsung to release their first device with the inclusion of LiDAR after dropping the feature in their latest Galaxy device. Is this the democratization of LiDAR? Only time will tell if this is fad or a feature that is here to stay.


US Department of Commerce, N. (2012, October 01). What is lidar? Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

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