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How the iPhone 12 Pro’s LiDAR scanner improves photography and AR

The ‘Pro’ in Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro is largely about the camera experience, with Apple promising its best ever photo and video experience.

Part of that is due to the new LiDAR Scanner, ported over from the iPad Pro range, which assists with low light photography and improved depth-sensing for augmented reality experiences.

What is a LiDAR Scanner?

Exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, the LiDAR Scanner sits in the bottom right corner of the new and improved camera array, and it could be a real game changer. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and this scanner will fire pulses of laser light out into the world, measuring the amount of time it takes to reach the target and travel back again.

Related: Best iPhone

This enables the LiDAR scanner to build an accurate picture of its surroundings. It works incredibly quickly and is highly accurate way of measuring distance. Apple says the tech offers “the ability to measure light distance and use pixel depth information of a scene.”

How will LiDAR improve iPhone 12 Pro photography?

Apple says the LiDAR Scanner will boost autofocus in low-light conditions, making it 6x faster for both photos and videos. Overall it will reduce capture time and accuracy in dim conditions. Furthermore, it introduces a brand new feature – Night Mode Portraits. Apple says this produces a “beautiful low-light bokeh effect,” and we’re super excited about test driving this feature in particular.

How will LiDAR benefit AR experiences?

This might be the larger goal for Apple, given its interest in the augmented reality sector. The company says the LiDAR sensor will be a massive deal for developers who are creating AR apps for the iPhone.

The LiDAR sensor will provide near-instant readings of the real world environment, for more realistic AR experiences that render faster than before. So if you’re testing out what new furniture would look like in your living room, or playing out a video game battle on your coffee table, the LiDAR sensor will ensure it renders quickly and more accurately. All good stuff.

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