Polycam launched a key 3D service for Ukraine.
If you’ve not yet heard about Polycam, you should. It’s an iOS app that can capture 3D models from real life subjects.
I’ve fiddled around with Polycam a little bit and found it to be quite good. Take a look at this near flawless 3D scan of a ceramic figurine that I often use for scan testing:
Polycam produced this 3D model using “photo” mode. It turns out that the system has two different methods for capturing 3D models: photogrammetry (photo mode) and LIDAR mode. The LIDAR mode obviously requires an iOS device with that hardware feature.
LIDAR mode makes it exceptionally easy to capture large scenes and buildings, while photo mode quickly captures and processes images into detailed 3D models of smaller subjects.
While Polycam is very good at what it does, it is not quite free. There is a monthly subscription fee of US$7 (discount for annual) for the full service. There is a free tier, but it is limited to only 5 photo mode captures (with unlimited LIDAR captures) and extremely limited export formats (GLTF). It is possible to convert GLTF files into STL for 3D printing, but that’s more work.
Using Polycam one could easily capture all sorts of interesting 3D models, and many do so.
But this month Polycam launched a new program they call “Backup Ukraine”. The idea is to encourage those in Ukraine to use Polycam to quickly capture 3D models of sculptures, buildings, artwork and anything else that might be destroyed by Russian attackers.
They’ve generously offered unlimited use of Polycam for Ukrainians to perform these captures, through partnerships with Blue Shield Denmark, Virtue Futures and UNESCO.
Here’s a short video on the project:
It’s very important to note that you MUST volunteer for this program and be approved. The video also notes that you must never capture military people, equipment or locations, for obvious reasons. In fact, this work could be somewhat dangerous, depending on the location and military activity in the area.
But it is good work. Given the catastrophic damage inflicted by the invaders in some Ukrainian cities, there is little doubt that priceless and irreplaceable works of art have and are being destroyed.
Polycam’s Backup Ukraine project is therefore a critical service and shows how everyone can help.
On Polycam’s site you can already see a number of objects and scenes already captured successfully by those in Ukraine. There still are many more items that should be captured.
If you are reading this in Ukraine, or know someone that does, consider volunteering for Backup Ukraine, if you feel safe doing so. Your efforts could be the way to save the digital representation of something important that may be destroyed in the next weeks or months.
There’s one line from the video that really strikes me:
“Backup in the cloud, where no bombs can reach.”