Polycam's Backup Ukraine initiative digitally preserves monuments before Russia breaks them

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The Invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has caused horrendous damage to Ukranian lives, properties, environments and monuments. Ukraine will never be the same, especially as numerous iconic items fall to Russian artillery. However, Polycam's Backup Ukraine project aims to help in the only way it can.

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Via Polycam Learn, 3D scanning company Polycam is helping Ukranians preserve digital versions of beloved monuments. But how does this technology work? And how will digital versions of monuments live into the future?

What is Polycam's Backup Ukraine?

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Announced in a blog post, Polycam's Backup Ukraine project is a collaboration between multiple organisations and the Ukrainian public. The app company has partnered with the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and more.

Polycam is helping to create a “volunteer corps” of monument scanners to digitally immortalise iconic parts of the country. The company advises volunteers to scan everything from “famous statues to local meeting places”. However, they also explained that “everything counts when preserving your history”.

“Even larger buildings can be scanned via drone, but always consult with local regulations,” Polycam told volunteers. “We discourage drone capture where forbidden. Always ensure your personal safety.”

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How does Polycam work?

Polycam is a mobile phone app that creates 3D models from a large collection of flat images. Using AI software, the application separates an object from a background and constructs a 3D model from the captured data. 3D scanning tech is already integral to low-budget filmmaking.

The software isn't limited to smaller objects like statues or small artifacts. For example, using the LiDAR feature of newer iPhones, Polycam can reconstruct entire building interiors — or even streets — with its reconstruction algorithms. Additionally, models are able to be downloaded, saved to cloud storage or viewed in the app.

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Backed up for 5 years after the war has ended

Polycam's Backup Ukraine initiative will automatically upload all 3D scans to a central database that can be viewed here. As the project is 100% non-profit, every 3D scan is marked as Savable and licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.

The online archive will be maintained for a “minimum of 5 full years after the war has ended.” This will help to preserve every monument that will be unfortunately be destroyed by Russia's invasion and give rebuilt museums a chance to download everything.

In the announcement, Polycam made sure to berate Russia for its actions against Ukraine. The company said: “Destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the fastest way to erase their national identity. In light of Russia’s false denial of Ukrainian sovereign and unique national identity, we take the destruction of the country’s history extremely seriously.”