Users of the latest iPhone Pro models are just beginning to learn the features of a mysterious black circle next to the cameras on the back of the latest iPhone models.
In a recent Reddit post with 1,400 upvotes, a user saw the mysterious circle circling and simply asked, “What is this for?”
The circle is only found in the latest iPhone Pro models and certain iPad Pro models – and it’s actually very useful, enabling some of the coolest apps and features on the device.
The point integrated into the camera array is actually a LiDAR (stands for Light Detection and Ranging) scanner.
The black “dot” is shown here on an iPhone 14 Pro (Apple).
The sensor enables the Measure app to determine the height of people (Apple)
Put simply, it is a depth sensor that uses lasers to determine how far away objects are.
It involves targeting an object with a pulsed laser and measuring how long it takes for the light to return. This allows the iPhone or iPad to “build” a 3D model of the world in front of it.
LiDAR technology has been used to uncover lost cities in the Amazon by “digitally clearing” the canopy and finding ruins underneath. It is also used in self-driving cars to “sense” the distance to other vehicles.
But in iPhones, it’s used to enable advanced photography and augmented reality apps that “sense” how far away things are — and apps that can automatically measure a person’s height, for example.
Apple says, “The LiDAR scanner measures distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nanosecond speeds.”
This allows apps like Apple’s own Measure app to measure lengths, widths and areas with pinpoint accuracy – and even use the LiDAR sensor to measure people’s height.
Apple says, “The LiDAR scanner improves the measurement app, making it faster and easier to automatically calculate a person’s height, while automatically displaying helpful vertical and edge guides so users can measure objects faster and more accurately.”
“The Measure app now also has a ruler view for more detailed measurements and allows users to save a list of all measurements including screenshots for future use.”
The sensor also appears on iPad Pro models (Apple)
The technology also helps the camera in Pro models take better photos, especially in low light conditions, and allows the autofocus to work faster.
There are also many apps that take advantage of the technology: Polycam is a 3D scanner that quickly creates virtual models of 3D objects and spaces using the LiDAR sensor and uses it for fun or room planning to capture 3D objects can be.
The technology also enables augmented reality apps, where virtual objects interact with the “real” world.
According to Apple, LiDAR enables apps to “make virtual content interact realistically with the physical environment, for example by bouncing a virtual ball off a wall in the real world and allowing the ball to follow the laws of physics.”
IKEA Place, for example, uses augmented reality to place IKEA furniture like sofas, lamps and bookshelves in your home and see how well it fits in.