What is LiDAR? And why are we suddenly seeing it on consumer products?

If you have seen some of apples new commercials around the ipad pro you may have seen Apple touting their new Lidar. You may have wondered, what exactly is Lidar?

Let’s talk about this neat little measurement tool

Firstly, LiDAR isn’t new and its been around for a while and it’s been used by scientists, usually in the form of LiDAR drones, to examine the surface of the earth and is used in conjuncture with other sensors with various autonomous cars to help them get a better sense of their surroundings.



LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging, and how lidar works is that it fires out rapid pulses of infra-red laser light in quick succession, lasers being just super focused wavelength of light. That light then bounces off objects in front of it and returns it to the LiDAR sensors.



The time it takes for the light to make that round trip is then calculated and is then used to create a 3D model of the object that can be used when measuring the distance, height and shape of the object. Lasers are categorised by their wavelength with 600-1000mm being most commonly used for non-scientific purposes, such as consumer products like the iPad Pro, as its considered safe for the eye.

So, why are we now suddenly starting to see this being implemented onto consumer products all the sudden?

Time of flight, or TOF, have been making their way onto phones to help with AR, as well as things like portrait mode and focus, and technically TOF is the method that is used to measure the time of fight of the light to and from the object – in this case to determine the distance of the object etc. And LiDAR is the sensor being used to do that.