Apple has launched the latest version of its iPad Pro, adding a LiDAR scanner to enhance augmented reality (AR) applications and a new chip for processor-intensive projects like video editing.
The tech giant said the LiDAR Scanner adds new depth-sensing capabilities, with support for professional photo and video apps. This may encourage the use of AR apps -- something Apple has been developing with the iPhone for some time.
Apple said the iPad Pro is aimed at demanding tasks, like editing 4K video or designing 3D models, and gets a new A12Z Bionic chip to support this. The eight-core GPU in the A12Z Bionic, along with an enhanced thermal architecture and tuned performance controllers, means this is the highest-performance iPad to date. The company also said that with the A12Z Bionic chip "iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops", but did not provide any more detail to back up that assertion.
According to Apple, the device will have a 10-hour battery life, a 12MP Wide camera which can capture 4K video, and a 10MP Ultra Wide camera that zooms out two times to capture a much wider field of view. Apple said adding a second camera enables different perspectives and multi-camera use. The tablet also comes with five microphones, which Apple describes as "studio-quality", with the aim of attracting video professionals, podcasters and other content creators.
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Ben Wood, chief of research at tech analyst CCS Insight said Apple dominates the premium tablet market, choosing to leave the low cost, low margin segment to Amazon and others. "The new iPad Pro is a halo product for the entire product range and with prices starting at £769 its more expensive than many laptops. The device confirms Apple's desire to firmly define the iPad Pro as a productivity tool that can be used by business customers who want productivity on the move. It also underlines Apple's desire to continue expanding its efforts with augmented reality, given the inclusion of the most advanced camera we've ever seen on a tablet."
The LiDAR scanner -- a technology better known in self-driving cars -- measures the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away. New depth frameworks in iPadOS combine depth points measured by the LiDAR scanner, data from both cameras and motion sensors, and is enhanced by computer vision algorithms on the A12Z Bionic for a more detailed map of a scene. The aim is to boost the quality of AR experience created on the iPad Pro.
Apple said existing ARKit apps will automatically get instant AR placement, improved motion capture and people occlusion.
For example, the LiDAR scanner improves the Measure app, making it faster and easier to automatically calculate someone's height, while helpful vertical and edge guides automatically appear to let users measure objects. The Measure app also now comes with Ruler View for more granular measurements and allows users to save a list of all measurements, complete with screenshots for future use.
Apple said the new iPad Pro will be available in stores starting next week. The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be available in silver and space gray finishes, with a starting storage option of 128GB rising to 256GB, 512GB and 1TB configurations.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $949 (US) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $1,149 (US) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The larger model with 1TB of storage plus Wi-Fi and cellular will cost $1649, according to Apple.