Polycam turns your iPad Pro into a real-time LIDAR scanner
Thursday, November 5, 2020 | Written by Jim Thacker
Originally published September 30, 2020. Scroll down for updates.
The developers John Stalbaum, Elliott Spelman and Chris Heinrich have released Polycam: a nice iOS app that turns new Apple tablets into affordable LIDAR scanners.
The software uses the LIDAR sensor in the latest iPad Pros to create structured 3D scans of objects or environments as the user walks around them, showing how the web is building in real time.
A functional, affordable LIDAR scanner based on the sensor of the 2020 iPad Pro
Polycam uses the LIDAR sensor in Apple's latest iPad Pros to create colored, structured 3D scans of the tablet's surroundings.
While the sensor itself is primarily intended to improve the user experience in augmented reality apps, Polycam aims to generate 3D scan data that can be used in production.
According to the Polycam team, the resulting geometry is "generally accurate to about an inch," and the quality of the raw scans looks pretty good, especially for previous workflows.
The process is also almost in real time: the processing takes place locally on the tablet, with individual room recordings "only needing seconds for processing" so that you can see how the network builds up as you walk around.
Early adopters cite the speed and quality of textures as the main selling points. A report on the App Store states that Polycam "generates the best quality footage of any 3D scanning app".
"The spatial resolution is not as good as [source] images and something like RealityCapture, but the speed and convenience still make it a fantastic tool."
Once created, Polycam 3D scans can be exported to a number of standard file formats, including OBJ, STL, glTF, and USDZ, in DCC applications or game engines.
Updated November 5, 2020: The Polycam team has released Polycam 1.1.2, an update that "seriously increases" the maximum size of the scans that can be captured.
Users should now be able to process a "3,000 square foot or larger house" – or about half a block of town in the case of the 430 ft x 200 ft test recording of the Pasadena Auditorium embedded above.
Polycam now also runs on an iPhone. However, since a lidar sensor is needed, the only models it currently works with are the new iPhone 12 Pro and the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Pricing and system requirements
Polycam is available for iOS 14.0+. You need an iPad or iPhone with a LIDAR sensor to use it.
The basic app is free and can be used to generate an unlimited number of scans. However, a one-time in-app payment of $ 9.99 and $ 11.99 is required to export the geometry to another software.
You can find more information about Polycam in the App Store
See 3D scans made with Polycam in Chris Heinrich's Sketchfab gallery
Tags: 3D scan, 3D scanning, Chris Heinrich, dimensional accuracy, Elliott Spelman, glTF, HD mode, high resolution, iOS, iPad, iPad Pro, iPhone, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, John Stalbaum, LIDAR, LIDAR Scanning, Inexpensive, OBJ, Photogrammetry, Polycam, Polycam 1.1, Polycam 1.1.2, Price, Real Time, RealityCapture, STL, System Requirements, Structured 3D Mesh, USDZ, Vertex Boundary