What are the benefits of using Canvas with a LiDAR-enabled iPad or iPhone vs. Structure Sensor?

The Short Answer

For the typical user using Scan To CAD, you likely won’t notice a huge difference between using Canvas with Structure Sensor or a LiDAR-enabled iPad or iPhone (Apple LiDAR). However, using Canvas with Apple LiDAR will offer a faster, easier setup with no hardware to assemble or calibrate — you simply download the Canvas app and start scanning. 

For those who intend to work with the 3D scan itself, you may appreciate the higher-detailed meshes generated by Structure Sensor. Structure Sensor’s resolution is higher than the embedded LiDAR sensor, which will make it easier to measure and annotate in-app or in the 3D Web Viewer. However, it does not affect the underlying accuracy of the scan or resulting Scan To CAD files.  

You can see the examples below to determine for yourself which option will best suit your needs:

Room scanned with iPad and Structure Sensor:


Room scanned with a LiDAR-enabled iPad alone:


We recommend looking at “Original” to really see the difference, as that is what you would see on-device after you finish scanning.

Generally, if you don't already have a Structure Sensor, we recommend purchasing an iPad Pro for use with Canvas — or the iPhone 12 Pro if you are looking for an all-in-one device that will double as a phone. However, if you already have an iPad and Structure Sensor, there isn't a major reason to upgrade as of yet.  

The Long Answer

Your biggest trade-off is going to be mesh detail vs. ease of onboarding and convenience. However, we wanted to call out a few other metrics of comparison we know our customers may be interested in: 

Compatibility with Scan To CAD: Both sensors will yield data that is completely compatible with Scan To CAD.

Accuracy: The underlying accuracy of the data is fairly comparable, and both sensors will yield a similar level of accuracy in both the 3D scan itself as well as a Scan To CAD result. Measuring the 3D scan in-app or in the 3D Web Viewer may be easier, but the underlying accuracy is similar whether you are using the embedded LiDAR sensor or Structure Sensor.

(Note: It is theoretically possible that the higher resolution from Structure Sensor may yield slightly more accurate Scan To CAD results when it comes to small details of a room, like electrical fixtures, but this has so far not been observed in initial usage.) 

Ease of training: Both sensors are meant to be used in largely the same way to get the best results. However, getting started with Canvas using a LiDAR-enabled iPad or iPhone will require less steps, and have less potential for a user forgetting to bring the sensor (or associated accessories) with them to a job site.  

Compatibility with cases: as a LiDAR-enabled iPad or iPhone does not involve any additional hardware, it will by default be compatible with any protective or carrying cases for the chosen device. 

Range: Structure Sensor’s range is 3.5m, while the Apple's integrated LiDAR sensor’s range is 5m.

Outdoor use: Both sensors are likely to struggle in direct sunlight outdoors, but the Apple's integrated LiDAR sensor may be less sensitive due to the nature of the hardware. You can learn more about using Canvas outdoors here

Cost: If you’re buying a device specifically to use with Canvas, the cost of buying the baseline 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro ($799) will be cheaper than buying an iPad as well as Structure Sensor. If you recently purchased an iPad and don't yet wish to upgrade it, you may prefer to purchase a Structure Sensor (offered at $499 for use with Canvas).

Scanning speed: The real-time mesh updates during your scan will be quite a bit faster with Structure Sensor than with the Apple's integrated LiDAR sensor. This doesn’t mean you will be able to capture spaces faster, per se, but it will likely feel like a “smoother” scanning experience.

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