Apple is announcing a new iPad Pro. Apple’s headline feature is that it has a LIDAR scanner to go along with its camera for depth sensing and AR, but what most people are going to notice is that very new keyboard that you can get with it.
The keyboard unfolds and elevates the iPad to a more comfortable viewing position, as you can see above. It also has a trackpad on it. Apple says, “Rather than copying the experience from macOS®, trackpad support has been completely reimagined for iPad. As users move their finger across the trackpad, the pointer elegantly transforms to highlight user interface elements.” You can see very brief examples of it in use in the video below.
Apple is calling it a “Magic Keyboard,” matching the branding it recently used on the redesigned and improved MacBook keyboard. It is backlit and has a “smooth angle adjustment.” Unfortunately, it won’t be available until May, but it will be compatible with last year’s iPad Pros as well.
As for the iPad Pro itself, Apple has historically had a lot of extra power in the processor, and that appears to be no different this time. Apple calls it the “A12Z Bionic Chip,” with eight cores in the GPU, and Apple isn’t shy about saying that it is “more powerful than most Windows PC laptops.” They also made a twee ad for it along the lines of its classic “What’s a computer” ad. Battery life is estimated at 10 hours, and it supports gigabit LTE but not 5G.
- LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is used to determine distance by measuring how long it takes light to reach an object and reflect back. It is so advanced, it’s being used by NASA for the next Mars landing mission. And it’s now been engineered to fit in the thin and light iPad Pro.
- The custom-designed LiDAR Scanner uses direct time of flight to measure reflected light from up to five meters away, both indoors and out. It works at the photon level, operates at nanosecond speeds, and opens up tremendous possibilities for augmented reality and beyond.
The three-camera array may look exactly like the three cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro, but on the iPad Pro, it’s a different setup. There’s a regular wide-angle and an ultrawide, but the third sensor is LIDAR, which uses lasers for depth-sensing and augmented reality.
How (or even whether) Apple intends to announce those products during the pandemic is anybody’s guess.