Surely everyone who has followed the line of devices from Apple noticed that the most expensive models appeared sensors Lidar. Their ability to help take better photos is widely advertised, but what is this technology, and what else does it do? Let’s find out.
Let’s say this technology is not used in everyday use and is not needed in things like playing India live casinos online, cooking and watching movies. But if you are into photography or want a smart home – this feature is definitely for you!
What is lidar (LiDAR)?
Lidar itself is a technology that is actively used in geodesy and mapping. It allows you to build three-dimensional models and maps, including construction sites or the natural environment.
Lidar stands for Light Identification Detection and ranging – that is, measuring distances using light. This name, not without reason, sounds similar to the word “radar” – the principle of operation of devices is very similar, but Lidar uses waves of the optical range (that is, light beams), and in radars – radio waves.
How Lidar works
For the first time, the technology began to be used back in the 60s – then the lidar scanners used lasers, and the devices with this technology were installed on aircraft. However, fully deploying the use of Lidar was able to deploy only in the 80s, when the data obtained through the scanners could be correlated to information from GPS systems.
To tell how the Lidar works are simple: in a sense, the technology can be described as a “boomerang”. A lidar scanner is based on the use of laser beams. First, the scanner emits a shaft reflected by the object before it and returns to the scanner. Then, knowing the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second), they can calculate how far the beam travelled before reflecting off the object and returning to the scanner. Typically, lidar sensors can generate 1,000,000 such pulses per second, thus creating an array of points from which various maps and models are subsequently constructed.
In other words, Lidar is, in simple terms, a laser rangefinder. It produces precise maps of the area from a set of coordinates, which it receives while calculating the trajectory of laser beams fired from a special scanner.
Where to use LiDAR
- Now lidar technology is still most often used for geographical needs and for creating accurate models and three-dimensional maps of the area. However, Lidar is used not only by cartographers but also by scientists who study atmospheric phenomena. For example, for climatologists, LiDAR allows them to determine the composition of the atmosphere, conduct research on clouds and evaporation, and make forecasts on global warming based on this data. Oceanographers use a professional laser rangefinder to track coastal erosion, and botanists use LiDAR to monitor the state of the Earth’s forests.
- LiDAR is excellent for studying the gas composition of the atmosphere because different gases absorb laser beams at different intensities. And by launching a beam from an aeroplane from a certain height and knowing what level the surface is at, the lidar principle lets you know which gases dominate that particular spot. This use of Lidar is already called DiAL, that is, LiDAR with differential absorption.
- Also, lidars are used by police officers! What is often referred to as “police radar” is a laser scanner with which law enforcement officers identify speeding offenders. Such handheld devices often use a wavelength of 905 nm, which is a cheap, safe and effective solution.
- In addition to professional applications, precision sensors are sometimes used for more mundane tasks. Based on data from LiDAR systems, 3D models are built, 3D scans of various objects are performed, and specialists measure lengths of areas for cadastral services.
LiDAR in the home
But what do we need Lidar for in everyday life? We encounter lidars a lot more often than you might think. In addition to the speed lidar cops already mentioned and the distance measuring devices (in cadastral surveys), lidars are also found in our daily equipment.
For example, today, Lidar monitoring systems are built into intelligent private homes. Lidars are an alternative to other sensors that detect movement in space.
And right now, LiDAR systems have long been installed on advanced models of robotic vacuum cleaners, which allows them to create an accurate map of walls and obstacles that may be encountered while cleaning the apartment. In practice, it looks like a separate unit rotating 360 degrees – it is engaged in laser scanning. However, there is an amusing mishap: the Lidar needs to cope better with mirrors because it takes them not as an obstacle but as another space.
The lidars in smart cars work on a similar principle.
Why is Lidar in smartphones and tablets
In 2020, Apple’s devices first had LiDAR sensors, the iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max models. Until now, the presence of the lidar sensor has been the prerogative of the top segment of devices of the Californian company. With this sensor, some devices’ functions reach a new level of quality.
For example, the naturalness of photos with a bokeh effect is significantly increased. LiDAR helps objects in the foreground to be in perfect focus – on phones without this sensor, hair, parts of ears and other small things can be ignored by the algorithm and get lost in the background. And thanks to the use of laser rangefinders in iPhones, the detail and quality of such photos have increased significantly.
In addition to bokeh, LiDAR is also used to improve nighttime images. For example, in existing iPhone Pro and iPad Pro models with LiDAR, the speed of autofocus and nighttime pointing increases sixfold, which allows you to take more high-quality photos without losing focus.
LiDAR-enabled devices also increase the accuracy of tools such as the virtual ruler and rangefinder. Every owner of a modern iPhone and iPad can accurately know the dimensions of his apartment, measure the length and height of walls and even measure the floor’s curvature. The accuracy of the data obtained allows you to use this information in genuine construction and save on the purchase of additional equipment or the services of specialists with the help of standard apple apps.
Prospects for the development of LiDAR technology
A serious prospect for the development and even more extensive use of LiDAR technology is augmented reality. Also known as AR, unlike entirely virtual reality, it is based on working with authentic images. As a result, LiDAR sensors are much better suited to accurately determining objects in space than processing information with neural networks.
It can already be seen in the example of Apple equipment – the company has been developing its AR direction since 2017 and works particularly well on devices with LiDAR sensors. The built-in sensors can measure the distance to objects within five meters and then combine the data obtained with computer vision systems.