This amazing app turns your iPhone into a smart 3D scanner

RealityScan on iPhone
(Image credit: Epic Games)

Have you ever wondered what your favourite chair would look like in a video game? Well. wonder no more, as the RealityScan app from Epic Games can suck in the dimensions and design of real-world objects and render them in high-fidelity graphics for use in a virtual world. 

You’ll need an iPhone — may I recommend the stellar iPhone 13 Pro, the one phone that has drawn me away from Android — and access to the Apple TestFlight (opens in new tab) program as the app is still in beta and an Android version isn’t ready yet. And as an extra catch, only 10,000 people will get early hands-on access while the app is in beta.

But once you're set up, you can use the app and your iPhone’s rear camera to scan an object in the physical world, snapping a handful of shots, after which Epic’s graphics tech with then take all that visual data and render the object in graphical form. 

This might seem like a simple thing, but accurately modeling real-world objects in a digital environment is very tricky and often needs advanced imaging equipment. But RealityScan looks set to overcome that

“Capturing real-world assets for digital experiences has traditionally been complicated, technical, and labor-intensive—but now it’s as simple as unlocking your smartphone,” explained Epic Games.

These scans can then be used in augmented or virtual reality apps or within the Unreal Engine, one of the most used game engines in the world.

The RealityScan app may seem like something you’d use once or twice and get bored with. But for content creators and hobbyist programmers, the app could be a boon as it will help put 3D digital modelling into the hands of people who may not have an established knowledge and experience in 3D photogrammetry.

This could then kickstart a new wave of solo or small-level game and software makers who use RealityScan to bring their games or augmented reality experiences to life, without a load of expensive equipment or time-consuming processes.

And it’s these types of tools that could really help evolve the camera capabilities of smartphones. If you check out our best camera phones list, you see phones like the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra deliver fantastic photos. But the difference between them and other flagship phones is less pronounced. yet advanced capabilities and more support for smart apps could be the next frontier for phones to do battle on.

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.