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Ukraine war: App creates 3D models of cultural heritage


Volunteers armed with smartphones are using technology to preserve Ukraine’s cultural heritage one snap at a time.


As the war in Ukraine rages on, the country’s citizens have rallied to protect important historic landmarks from Russian bombs.


Early in the conflict, people were seen doing what they could to preserve these pieces of Ukrainian heritage, including wrapping statues in foam. These images served as the inspiration for one team to come up with another way of saving the country’s culture.


“The fastest way to erase a people’s national identity is by destroying their cultural heritage,” Ukrainian architect Tao Thomsen said.


Thomsen founded the project Backup Ukraine, a collaborative effort launched earlier this year that includes the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, as a partner.


The project allows ordinary citizens to use a free smartphone app to scan and produce 3D models of monuments and buildings.


Users simply step slowly around an object as the app takes a series of photos and creates the model. The models are then stored in a digital cloud-based archive.


“Everyday people using just their phones can make really precise 3D models at a level that was normally reserved for professionals with millions of dollars of equipment,” Thomsen said.


Soren la Cour Jensen, chair of the board for the Danish arm of Blue Shield, an international organization that works to protect cultural heritage in countries facing conflict or disasters, said the app can be used to not only create models of large monuments like those you would find in a museum, but anything people find to be culturally important.


Blue Shield Denmark is also a partner in Backup Ukraine.


“We are reaching out now to everyone, potentially everyone with a mobile phone, and they can help protect their own cultural heritage,” he said.

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