Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Apple iPhone LiDAR applications

Polycam makes apps that leverage the new lidar sensor on Apple's latest iPhone and iPad models.

Their website presents a gallery of objects scanned with their app: https://poly.cam/explore

Original press release about Polycam's new app:

Polycam launches a 3D scanning app for the new iPhone 12 Pro models with a LiDAR sensor. The app allows users to rapidly create high quality, color 3D scans that can be used for 3D visualization and more. Because the scans are dimensionally accurate, they can be used to take measurements of virtually anything in the scan at once, rapidly speeding up workflows for many professionals such as architects and 3D designers. What is perhaps most impressive about Polycam is the speed -- scans which would have taken hours to process on a desktop without a LiDAR device can now be processed in seconds directly on an iPhone. 

As Chris Heinrich, the CEO of Polycam, puts it: "I've worked for years on 3D scanning with more conventional hardware, and what you can do on these LiDAR devices is literally 100x faster than what was possible before".

3D capture is a valuable tool for many industries, and Polycam is already seeing enthusiastic usage from architects, archaeologists, movie set designers and more, via an iPad Pro version that launched earlier this year. With the launch of the iPhone version, Heinrich expects to see adoption from many more users across a wider range of verticals. "Just as smartphones dramatically expanded the reach of photo and video", Heinrich says, "we expect these new LiDAR-enabled smartphones to dramatically increase the reach of 3D capture".

While the launch of the iPhone version is an important milestone, "this is just the beginning", says Heinrich. Many new features and improvements are in the pipeline, from enabling users to create even larger scans, improved scanning accuracy of smaller objects and a suite of 3D editing and AI-driven postprocessing tools to supercharge professional workflows that utilize 3D capture. 

Polycam is available to download on the App Store for the iPhone 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and the 2020 iPad Pro family. Sample 3D scans can be found on Sketchfab. Polycam was built by a small team of individuals with a passion for 3D capture, and deep experience in computer vision and 3D design.

[I am curious to know what the real-world challenges and limitations are. In particular, how much do the final results rely on lidar data vs. traditional "photogrammetry" that fuses multiple RGB images with minimal supervision from the lidar for, say, absolute scale? If you have an iPhone/iPad and get to try this app out, please share your thoughts in comments below! ---AI]

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