What Is LiDAR?

What Is Lidar Technology and How Does It Work?

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging.

It's a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the exact distance of an object on the earth's surface. The LiDAR Scanner measures how long it takes for light to reach an object and reflect back.

What Is LiDAR Used For?

LiDAR is commonly used in:

  • Airplanes and helicopters for calculating accurate geospatial measurements.
  • Map making to allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments.
  • Self-driving cars.
  • And robotics and drones.

It's also in our phones! Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro and the 2020 iPad Pro have a new sensor that adds depth scanning for better photos and the potential for more powerful AR (augmented reality).

lidar blue iphone 12 pro rear camera lenses closeup

Look closely at the iPhone 12 Pro or the latest iPad Pro and you'll see the LiDAR sensor - the black circle near the camera lenses which is about the same size as the flash. 

How Can I Use It On My iPhone or iPad?

You might already be using LiDAR technology without even knowing it. Discover the ways you're currently using it and all the cool things you could possibly do with it down below.

Face ID

Most Apple users would be familiar with using Face ID to unlock their phones and apps. Apple's Face ID-enabling TrueDepth camera shoots out infrared laser to detect your facial features, but it only works up to a few centimetres away. The rear lidar sensors on the iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro work at a range of up to 5 meters, unlocking more possibilities.

lidar face id iphone

Low Light Photography

Apple's iPhone 12 Pro models have better cameras as LiDAR improves photos that are shot in low-light, thanks to its ability to "see in the dark". LiDAR makes Night mode portraits possible for the new models and renders every pattern and texture in the foreground along with realistic colour throughout the room. Apple promises better low-light focus, up to six times faster in low-light conditions.

lidar iphone 12 pro low light photography

Measure Length & Height

With LiDAR, you can measure how long something is or how high someone is! According to Apple, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max should also be able to measure a person's height while they're sitting in a chair!

lidar measure length and height

Here's how to measure height using the iPhone 12 Pro:

  1. Open the Measure app.
  2. Hold the iPhone so that the whole length of the person is in the frame.
  3. After a few seconds you will see a line appear above the persons head and the height measurement will show just below that.

3D Scanning

With LiDAR, you can play with 3D scanning apps to mesh out objects and rooms which you could use for home improvement, app development or navigation.

IKEA Place App

lidar ikea space app

The IKEA Place app lets you virtually "place" IKEA products in your space so you can see how they'd look in your rooms.

Google Maps

lidar google maps ar navigation

Google is trialling its AR navigation option with selected users. With this option you can find your way through the streets using virtual visual cues and relate your whereabouts using the buildings around you.

Augmented Reality Fun

LiDAR allows the iPhone 12 Pro to start AR apps a lot more quickly and build a fast map of a room to add more detail. It also allows for more complicated room mappings that can hide virtual objects behind real ones (called occlusion) or place them on a table or chair. This can be very entertaining and allows us to use augmented reality for fun or to learn in a new way.

lidar the very hungry caterpillar ar

A classic children's story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is brought to life with AR. You can see the caterpillar interact with the world around you.

lidar anatomy applidar anatomy app 1

Learn in a new way with an anatomy app, with 3D modelling of the human body.

lidar snapchat augmented reality

Snapchat's next wave of lenses will start incorporating depth-sensing using the iPhone 12 Pro's LiDAR sensor. Check out how the grass grows on the floor, the plant sits on the table and the birds flutter around the woman.


The future of LiDAR in the palm of our hands is exciting. Explore the technology with Apple's iPhone 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max or the 2020 iPad Pro. Protect your phone and explore our range of customisable cases below!