iPhone 12 Pro LIDAR - The Future of Navigation?

(7 May 2021 12:00 am)

By Sam Davis

A LiDAR scanner has been added to the iPhone 12 Pro camera lenses and it has wonderful implications for the visually impaired community.

LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging and it is a 3-dimensional mapping technology similar to radar and sonar. It is used in self-driving cars, factory floor robots and robot vacuum cleaners to navigate the world around them by sending out laser beams to generate a map.

Its initial function was to improve augmented reality (AR) where digital data is overlaid onto real images (e.g. a phone app that allows you to visualise what different colour wall paint would look like in your house), but has since been adapted to help serve the visually impaired community. 

Lucy Edwards, a blind reporter for the BBC, took to the high street with an iPhone 12 Pro to investigate how effective it truly is as part of the BBC Click program.
Using LiDAR, Lucy was able to identify things nearby with impressive detail, such as spotting she was near a white building with a red and white sign on it and was even able to determine what was in a shop window. 

In her investigation Lucy described the tool as “amazingly accurate” and in her review, Lucy confessed “Honestly I think knowing that people are around me freaks me out a little bit because I’m really not used to it, but I’m really excited that I can be in control again.” 

She added “What really surprised me was the people proximity alerts. The smart phone counts down as people get closer. I think this is going to be useful after the pandemic for tackling things like queues”.

An iPhone 12 Pro costs from £999 so it is an expensive option. With all new features they are initially added to the top of the line models, but over time they will be included into the rest of the product line.

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