Given that one of its key uses is in photography, you’d expect some kind of LiDAR controls in the Camera app, or at least something in Settings. But there’s neither.

There’s also little incentive to go looking for such controls because until you’ve seen it in action, it’s hard to grasp just what LiDAR can do for you. The technology scans your environment, building up a 3D image of it, and that’s going to change how well AR and VR works.

If you’ve previously given up on using Apple’s Measure app, try it again. The app is now aided by LiDAR and that’s improved it noticeably.

That’s the theory and in practice, you find that Measure is just more useful than it used to be. Rather than an app you used for rough measurements when you didn’t have a tape measure, it’s now good enough, and quick enough, to use anywhere.

Next, while it’s harder to see, LiDAR has also made your Camera’s autofocus work faster. Again, it’s because LiDAR maps out the environment around you, so it’s begun calculating just how far or near an object is, as you tap the button to take the shot.

If Measure and autofocus are the only two discernible uses of LiDAR from Apple, though, there are already third-party apps that will do much more. There are very many of these, and most feel like experiments in finding out what’s possible.

What you see through the Canvas screen is like standing in a “Star Trek” holodeck. Alongside a camera view of what’s immediately in front of you, there’s a grid next to it. As you turn, the grid gets filled in which an image of your surroundings.

Move too quickly, and the resulting image is low on detail. Move too slowly, and the app can run out of memory before you complete the scan. So it’s a compromise between detail and completeness, but what it gets you is a 360 degree image of your room.

Right there on the iPhone, you can choose to zoom out to see an isomorphic projection of the room, rotate it with a gesture, and zoom in to see it from any angle. Swipe to show the room in closeup full screen, and you can then either swipe to move around — or physically move the phone.

You can instead take your phone and examine the scan anywhere else. Stand outside in field, for instance, and see your office on your iPhone screen. Move around the field, and the screen looks as if you’re moving around the office.

And again, 3D Scanner App resembles a holodeck in how it presents a grid over your object, which gets filled in and replaced as you scan.

Next time you move house, take a LiDAR scan of any new property you’re considering buying. We’re not at the stage yet where apps make it very easy to take a scan of a room, and then drop in separate scans of your furniture, but you can do it.

More usefully, you can get a better feel for the size of apartments when you’re comparing them. Being able to effectively walk around each apartment is much more intuitive than relying on floor plans and measurements.

And ones, such as Canvas, include an option to send a scan online. It’s not the same as being able to turn your phone around as you walk about a virtual room. But you can see a 360 degree scanned image on your Mac.

Apps will get more sophisticated as developers explore the technology — and as it becomes more worth their while when LiDAR becomes commonplace. That will surely also extend to new ways of sharing or downloading such scans.

And maybe then we’ll see more, maybe then we’ll also have more Apple AR, too.

This content was originally published here.