Google and partners create 3D models of Ukrainian landmarks

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The team got Skeiron’s Ukraine models down to 10 MB or less. But, in doing a final inspection, Igor says some distortion values might have been a touch “optimistic.” In a handful of cases, textures were slightly too blurry, and in others, fine details — like the thin, gilded cross that springs from the top of the Dormition Cathedral’s bell tower — were too distorted. So Igor spent some time manually refining the models, comparing the originals with their simplified versions side-by-side and making adjustments.

“The distortion metric may not pay much attention to these small details, but they stand out to the human eye,” he says. “So I would go in and then limit the degree to which it gets simplified.”

For Igor, who grew up in Kyiv, this was a very personal project. “Seeing all these monuments brought back a lot of warm memories from my time there,” he says. “The Church of Saint Nicholas, which also houses the National Organ and Chamber Music Hall of Ukraine, is actually where I took my future wife on one of our first dates.”

Once the project was live, Igor showed it to his parents, who left Ukraine in 2022 and are now living in France. “They were so impressed,” he says.

As he worked on refining the models, Igor became fascinated by one landmark in particular. “The Golden Gate of Kyiv was the main gate that fortified Kyiv back in the 11th Century, but it was taken apart during the Middle Ages,” he says. “The new Golden Gate, which is part of the Google Arts & Culture collection, is a reconstruction done very recently — but nobody knows exactly what the original looked like. What if we had had technology like this at that point in time — you could probably have restored the gate to its original form and preserved history,” he says. “That we’re able to do that now is incredibly powerful.”

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