LiDAR on iPhone: How accurate is it? Plus the biggest errors that Manifold corrects!

Alannah O'Neill
Aug 1, 2022

Is iPhone LIDAR accurate?

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses the pulse from a laser to collect measurements.

Traditional terrestrial LiDAR scanners are very accurate and are capable of measuring large objects with sub-millimetre accuracy.

But these scanners are expensive and can cost as much as a new car. Plus, they require experts who can operate the rigs, register and process the data.

What are the biggest errors that can arise from the LiDAR on the iPhone and iPAD that impact accuracy?

Error 1: Drift

Drift is a small error in the tracking system every single scan that adds up over time, and can end up being enormous. Each subsequent scan multiplies the error and you can end up in the wrong coordinate space.

Drift is one of the biggest errors that can arise from mobile scanning, and it can cause a headache because your results are so much less precise.

Over at Manifold, we're really proud of our best-in-class drift correction. We register and align all scans in the cloud to get rid of drift so that error is reduced significantly. You can rest easy knowing that our scans are accurate to within half an inch.  

Error 2: Error from fast movement

LiDAR sends light out which bounces off objects and comes back. That is what is used to calculate distance. The faster you move, the bigger errors that are introduced into the tracking system and also to the LiDAR depth calculation.

It's a huge problem with mobile scanning in general, and one we knew we could fix by limiting motion in the scanning process.

When you scan with Manifold, you hover your phone over small targets, and our system doesn't collect the information until it's been help perfectly still. By separating motion from the scanning process, we can make sure the data we collect is better quality, so you don't get error from fast movement.

So how accurate is the LiDAR on the iPhone or iPad?

The LiDAR on the iPhone or iPAD is not accurate enough for professional use cases, which is why software solutions like Manifold are so important.

Manifold improves scanning in the iPhone in a couple key ways: First, we use a structured scanning process that eliminates movement as much as possible in order to get the best data into the system.

Then, we register and align all the data in the cloud so you can scan it and forget it. We also apply machine learning to the data to improve it further.

With Manifold’s software, iPhone LiDAR is accurate to within half an inch.