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How Does LiDAR Work?

Several months ago, we did a review of Apple’s iPad Pro with LiDAR. LiDAR is a game changer for devices that need to detect distances in real time. Here at Visual Live, that means more accurate Augmented Reality (AR) representations of BIM models in the field. 

Everyone knows that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. With this technology, imaging is improved to a greater degree of accuracy. This means that any conflicts in spacial requirements can be readily discovered before costly mistakes are made. So how does LiDAR work? There are three basic components to a LiDAR device.

1. Laser reflection

The basic principle is fairly simple. A very low powered laser in a LiDAR device sends out pulses of light toward a surface. A detector in the device measures the time it takes for the light to bounce back. Because the speed of light is a known constant, the distance between the LiDAR device and the target surface can be easily and accurately calculated. 

2. GPS positioning

Laser guidance in conjunction with GPS positioning has been used in construction for several decades. When a LiDAR system is used in AR applications, GPS provides a “real world” reference point for the distance calculations. In other words, GPS allows an AR application to reference virtual objects against a known geographical location with a high degree of accuracy. 

3. Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)

An IMU is an electronic device that measures the orientation and momentum of an object. It uses gyroscopes and accelerometers to determine forward motion, rotational motion and axial motion. The IMU can record and store motion information to accurately track the movement of an object through space.

LiDAR as a System

A LiDAR system combines a laser that constantly measures distance with an IMU that tracks motion. Anchored to the real world by a high resolution GPS signal, this provides information that can be used to locate a virtual object in real space.

LiDAR Examples

Perhaps the best known example of a LiDAR system is implemented in self-driving cars. LiDAR enables the autonomous vehicle to “see” in all directions all the time. It constantly measures the time and distance delta to surrounding objects. Combined with automatic steering and GPS accuracy, LiDAR can navigate a pre programmed route, successfully avoiding obstacles such as barriers, buildings, and other cars.

Other examples include devices that can measure distances underground or underwater. There are also LiDAR applications used in agriculture and archaeology. When used in conjunction with our VisualLive software, LiDAR provides a precise and accurate positioning of BIM in real time on the jobsite.

About VisualLive

Starting in 2017, VisualLive was the first-to-market Mixed Reality solution for the AEC industry with the release of HoloLive™ for augmented reality glasses, such as the Microsoft HoloLens. After the success of HoloLive™, the same technology was developed to work on mobile devices running on iOS and Android platforms with MobiLive™. HoloLive™and MobiLive™ both work with VisualLive’s Navisworks and Revit plugins. They are integrated with BIM360 and Procore cloud-based solutions.

Today, VisualLive has over 1,500 current customers using both HoloLive™ and MobiLive™ in the construction and manufacturing industry.Try it for yourself by getting a free 14-day trial. For more information using LiDAR with VisualLive and the HoloLens 2, schedule a private demo or call 480-245-7575.

Images used under creative commons license (Commerical Use) 08/20/2020 Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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