Ok I don’t normally buy a new phone on release day, but this one tempted me too much. A lidar hardware device in addition to nice cameras was too much to pass up. Working in an Architectural, Planning, and Geospatial consultancy and specialising in all things Esri 3D GIS and yes CityEngine (as an instructor and consultant) this seemed like an ultimate gadget. This is just a quick post to give you my immediate gut reaction to what this might mean for geospatial, architectural, and planning professions.

As an after thought whilst walking to collect my kids from school I took out my phone and used one of the many 3D scanning apps available (a separate blog is needed for that I think as I haven’t settled on one I’m 100% happy with). It was raining and I was walking fast. I came home and used the apps export function to send me a collada file. Yes I know it’s not georeferenced but I can easily add this as I did in ArcGIS Pro, CityEngine, SketchUp or even Photoshop and no scaling was required. Below are some screen captures of the results.

Bottom line: devices like this will only get more accurate and cheaper. Professionals like myself need to understand this technology and think about what it means to be able to 3D scan objects and spaces. Survey professionals need to understand that perhaps if we can do a ‘good enough’ job with a consumer grade handheld device then they need to up their game. I can see such enormous opportunities here for certain professionals.

So is this a new tool for geodesign/GIS/planning/architecture? From first impressions, it bloody should be.


  1. Hi Elliot,

    Great bit of work you did here for this. I have tried to do something similar, but feel like it may have been a long winded method! I got the file exported into OBJ format, and used the geoprocessing tool to convert into a format which ArcGIS Pro recognized. I had to play around quite a bit to drag the item into the correct location and then scale it.

    Did you georeference it directly in ArcGIS Pro which meant no scaling was needed?

    • I basically brought the models into to ArcGIS Pro with no scaling and dragged to correct position. You can also import to a point as well. I need to write this up properly and I know I’m late with the next parts of this series… Because I use CityEngine I’ve been brining models into there and then exporting it out as FGDB…

  2. I’ve attempted to import .las and .obj files from 3d Scanner App into ArcGIS Pro multiple times. ArcGIS Pro will not even recognize the .obj extension and when I import the .las file into ArcGIS Pro I am unable to see the point cloud. Any help with importing Lidar data from an iPhone 12 Pro would be greatly appreciated.

    • For import of obj you will need to use either a GP tool (there are a couple depending on licence/extensions) or alternatively you can use KMZs (export the model as DAE file and import into SketchUp). ArcGIS Pro can view KMZ natively but also you can use a tool called KML to Layer which is available at all licence levels. The recent update to 3D Scanner App allows for georeferenced LAS export, but you need to enable GPS in the app and rescan models. The LAS file comes in quickly into ArcGIS Pro BUT it doesn’t have elevation information so either I would use a local scene without terrain or I would do a cartographic offset to have LAS file sit above terrain. Hope this helps… I probably should write that up in a bit more detail 🙂

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