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  • Writer's pictureFlorian Thess

Scaniverse - LiDAR scans with your iPhone

What is it?

A LiDAR sensor determines the range to an object by targeting an object with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. This technology has use in many different industries and now, it is also integrated into smartphones.

Since the iPhone 12, Apple has included LiDAR sensors in their yearly lineup. And short to follow, a few app developers have created applications that use the LiDAR sensor to turn real-world objects into 3D objects. As scanned 3D objects tend to have a more organic look than modelled ones, I tested one of these apps: Scaniverse.

Scaniverse - a LiDAR scanner for everyone


The workflow is super simple. You just open the app and click on create new scan. At the bottom of the screen, the user can change the effective range of the LiDAR scan. This is set to 5m by default, which means, that the scan will capture everything within a 5m radius.

It is helpful to adjust this number to the specific scenario as it speeds up the polishing process - more on this later.

Once the radius is selected, the screen shows the range affected. Just press start and record your scene. Keep in mind that the object needs to be covered from every angle. Scanning large sculptures seems tempting but you need to make sure you can reach the top as well - otherwise the model will have a hole there.

And now just hit record and move around the object! A pattern-overlay will show which parts of the scene have been scanned and which haven't - make sure to also check spots that are less accessible. As this process is quite CPU-intensive, it takes the app some time to compute the data - so walking around the object slowly will produce better results.

Once the scene is clear of stripes, just hit stop - the scan is done.

Now it's time to do some polishing and focusing on what actually matters.

Scaniverse offers a built-in crop feature which enables the user to adjust the size along all 3 axis. This, however, is not sufficient for most cases.

Instead, I export the model and import it into Cinema4D to finalise the object.

Scaniverse comes with support for many export types (Nov. 2021):

  • .OBJ

  • .FBX

  • .USDZ

  • .GLB

  • .STL

  • .PLY

  • .LAS

I know that Cinema4D works very well with .fbx files so I choose this as my export setting. Once exported, I simply import the file into Cinema4D. Since I want to create my own material, I just delete the texture that has been imported with it.

Most times, the scan will not just capture the object, but also the surrounding. This requires a bit of manual cleaning up. In my case, the scan also created polygons for the surrounding walls and pedestrians. I only want to keep the horse and the small pedestal it stands on.

For this example it is fairly simple to clean up the mesh - just select the unwanted polygons like the walls and floor and delete them. This leaves me with just the horse on the pedestal. Depending on what the scanned object is, this step can require a bit more time.

As far as materials are concerned, I kept it quite simple and created two different types of metal material for the horse which bleed into each other. For the pedestal, I used a marble texture from Quixel Megascans.

Now that the object is set up, I can build the world around it.

Cases for use

Being able to scan real world objects with an iPhone and apps such as Scaniverse is great for all sorts of things. A game developer might require some real world props for a game. An environment artist is able to capture what inspires him in the real world for further use within his 3D scene. VFX artists can easily scan and modify organic objects and use them for film projects. But also architects can make use of the technology and scan interiors to simulate possible constructions. The models scanned with Scaniverse can also be viewed in Augmented Reality!

With LiDAR scanners becoming more and more accessible, it has become much easier to recreate a digital version of organic, real life objects, true to scale - like this horse statue from a London Shopping Mall!

Final result

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