Polycam: One App That Shows Why Your iPhone Is Crazier Than You Think

iPhones are probably one of the most impressive inventions to come out of the 2010's. We all know our iPhones are capable of a million things:

  • 4K video

  • Panoramic photos

  • Airdrop

  • GPS

  • Photo/video editing

  • and so much more....

but as the saying goes, "you learn something new everyday," and this past weekend, I learned a few things about my iPhone that left me absolutely speechless and in doubt about everything I knew about what iPhones were capable of.

Polycam is an iPhone app that allows you to scan any physical object into a 3D object - something that was unheard of just a few years ago on any mobile device. The introduction of lidar technology into the iPhone 12 Pro, has almost made the iPhone much more than a phone or even computer. Lidar stands for light detection and ranging and brings the power of hyper-advanced technology such as VR, augmented-reality, and 3D scanning to life with just a few taps and swipes.

This technology first came to my attention by way of a Cole Bennett directed music video called, "Still Countin" by Yeat where Cole took advantage of the Polycam app to insert 3D scans of Yeat throughout his video like the one below:

Last weekend, I decided to give Lidar a shot for myself using an iPhone XR for a music video that I was directing. The goal was to leverage the 3D sensor technology provided by the newer iPhones along with the Polycam app to see if I could introduce some 3D objects, environments, and scenes into my video - including turning the artist into an animated 3D character within my video.

The results were absolutely stunning.

While not perfect, the above 3D scan was generated in less than 5 minutes simply using an iPhone XR outdoors in good lighting. In all fairness, it did take a number of tries to get the mesh (3D model textures) to look decent all the way around, but when compared to the expensive devices and computers that have previously been required to generate 3D objects and models, the Lidar technology in the latest iPhones is simply unmatched - and it doesn't stop there.

With my 3D model now created, I was anxious to dive into the world of 3D design and animation to learn how to bring my 3D character to life. As it turns out, this process was much more complex and less straightforward - but every bit as rewarding as learning how to take 3D scans in the first place.

Mixamo turned out to be an amazing resource for rigging and animated 3D characters into an animated sequence - which I then learned to use Blender and Element 3D to turn into an interactive music video that almost has a VR or video game feel to it.

In conclusion, iPhone technology has improved so much in the last few years that many of us have likely not even begun to realize the potential that we have in our pockets. Lidar is just one of the many advancements that Apple has made to help improve the creative experience for iPhone users and 3D scanning with Polycam is just one of infinite use cases for creatives to take advantage of.

What are some other interesting features you've played around with on your iPhone lately?

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