LIDAR in my pocket

Boyd

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Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Just got a new iPhone 12 Pro Max - my first new phone in five years! Chose it specifically for the camera and am very impressed so far. One of the coolest features is the built-in LIDAR scanner. The camera uses LIDAR for very accurate autofocus and there's a app for measuring things, but you need a third-party app to unlock its real power.

I used the Polycam app to scan an old bench along a trail on my property. Polycam doesn't have much documentation, but it seems to work well. There are other apps I'll also want to try at some point. Scanning is pretty straightforward, just point the camera and walk around. A grid forms over everything you see and you get feedback about what is being recognized. It took less than 5 minutes to capture this, it's just a first test so there are some glitches. Some of this is my technique, but the software/hardware may also have limitations. With some planning and patience, I think it would be possible to scan a pretty large area (perhaps 50 x 50 ft?), the scanner itself has a range of about 16 feet but you can walk around while scanning. This certainly isn't the tool for scanning several acres however.

(this is just a static screen shot)

bench.png

To view and manipulate the model in 3d, go the the link below. With a mouse, use the scroll wheel to zoom, hold the left button to rotate or the right button to move. On a phone or trackpad, pinch/spread to zoom, drag with one finger to rotate or two fingers to move. Click the full screen button for the best view, there is a fair amount of detail if you zoom way in - look at the acorns under the bench, for example.

 
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Boyd

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What you see is photography "wrapped around" a mesh created from the LIDAR samples, so I think it's possible to replace the photo with a solid color surface and then adjust lighting to reveal details, like I do at lidar.boydsmaps.com. But that's a project for some other time. There are a number of other apps that use the scanner, but none of them appear to be oriented towards mapping, most of them are for scanning rooms and buildings.

I think it has a lot of practical applications, you could certainly scan any area of interest and then explore it in 3d afterwards. And you can make very accurate measurements from the data. Will try to come up with some larger examples in the future, although the site where I am posting does not allow very large files for a free account. I may upgrade to a paid plan in the future however.
 

Teegate

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I showed my daughter the lidar and she was impressed as much as I was. The camera in that phone is the reason she was wanting to buy one.
 
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Boyd

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Both the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have the LIDAR scanner (the regular iPhone 12 and the Mini do not). The camera on the 12 Pro Max has several features that are different from the 12 Pro, such as a slightly longer zoom lens and sensor shift image stabilization. I am impressed by the stabilization, you can shoot a video just walking along and it will look very smooth, like a steadicam was used. I will post an example of that soon.

But, Jeez, these things are just as expensive as laptops now! At least Apple and the cell phone companies all offer 0% interest extended payment plans.
 

Boyd

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Here's a larger scan - a section of the Belco power plant ruins near the boat launch. I spent around 20 minutes on this one and as you can see, it covers a much larger area. It was stubborn about not scanning some of the water and a few other spots. Just guessing, this site is maybe 30' x 50' and it certainly seems possible to cover even larger areas. Looks like the trick to getting good scans is patience and really crawling around to capture every angle of every object. Also would have looked better under diffuse light on a cloudy day, the shadows of the trees look a little strange here - this was scanned around noon but the shadows are quite long this time of year!

Screen Shot 2020-11-24 at 1.28.01 PM.png

 
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