LiDAR sensor. Why is LiDAR built into phones and robotic vacuum cleaners, and should devices with this sensor be preferred?
In the characteristics of many modern devices (smartphones, tablets, robotic vacuum cleaners), you can find the mention of a sensor called LiDAR (lidar). However, this technology is much more widespread, and the list of its capabilities is unusually wide.
What is LiDAR sensor and why is it needed?
LiDAR is a remote positioning technology that uses a laser to collect information about the environment. The sensor emits light (invisible to the average person) that bounces off objects around it. Then, based on the response time, the distance to the objects, as well as their shape and size, is determined.
This technology allows you to create three-dimensional maps of the surrounding area, which is most often used in geodesy for various purposes: creating terrain models, surveying the built environment, etc. Laser scanning also performs other useful tasks, such as determining the risks of flooding, the amount of pollutants in the air, and the speed of movement of air currents in different layers of the atmosphere.
Where is LiDAR used?
There are several applications for LiDAR technology. For example, one of them is the orientation of unmanned vehicles, because without this sensor it will be impossible to calculate the distance to objects. With the help of LiDAR, archaeologists can recreate models of ancient objects, ruins, cities. NASA is using this technology to build 3D images of forests as well as to provide information on carbon levels.
Regular users may encounter the LiDAR sensor when purchasing and using smartphones, tablets, and robot vacuum cleaners. Let us consider in more detail why lidar is needed in these devices.
Why LiDAR sensor in smartphones?
The LiDAR sensor can be built into phones and tablets both in the back panel near the main cameras (for example, in some iOS devices) and in the front panel near the front camera. He performs several tasks at once.
First, the sensor allows you to improve the face recognition function. With the help of LiDAR, a three-dimensional model is created, which the smartphone stores in memory. Thus, it becomes almost impossible to fake a face or replace it with a photograph – the sensor not only “remembers” human features, but can also recognize whether they are voluminous or not.
Secondly, with the help of LiDAR, photos with the bokeh effect (blurring the background and focusing on the foreground) become more detailed. Smartphones are better at recognizing fine details such as hair, ears and accessories, and the outline separating the person from the background is more natural.
Thirdly, the technology is used to work with augmented reality objects. Apps and mobile games where the user can “place” 3D models in the environment using the mobile phone’s camera will work more correctly: objects are placed correctly, and do not get stuck in real objects or pass through them. This is useful not only for entertainment purposes, but also when using applications that allow you to “position” furniture in a room to see how it will look and if it will fit at all.
With the LiDAR sensor, you can also measure the dimensions of rooms, as well as objects inside them. This feature makes building and renovation applications more advanced as measurement results become more accurate.
Why LiDAR in a robot vacuum cleaner?
Since LiDAR technology allows you to build maps of the surrounding space, it has also been used in robotic vacuum cleaners. Models with LiDAR are better oriented indoors, unlike devices without it. The laser rangefinder scans the room 360 degrees, recognizes all obstacles and walls, so that in the future it will be easy to go around them.
And while lidar-powered robot vacuums are more expensive, their ability to navigate makes cleaning almost completely autonomous and more thorough. At the same time, LiDAR does not require lighting, which means that the robot vacuum cleaner can function correctly both in the evening and at night.