Cultural Heritage Spotlight: Octopus Foundation

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Our Cultural institutions Page highlights our ongoing support of museums and cultural institutions with free accounts and access to tools. In Cultural Heritage Spotlight, we’ll explore museums and cultural institutions who are using 3D technology to bring new life to their collections. Today’s blog post features the Octopus Foundation, a Swiss foundation dedicated to marine exploration and universal knowledge.

How to show what’s hidden in the ocean ? That question has obsessed the Octopus Foundation team for quite a long time now.

The main problem, as soon as you get interested in the oceans and the seas of our planet, is the number of tools and set of skills that you need to get offshore: a boat with fuel, navigation and diving knowledge, diving gear, waterproof photo equipment … the list is endless. Still in 2016, the blue world is not open to the public. It is persistently a field for professional and
specialized people.

Nonetheless, the seas and oceans are filled with treasures. From complex and incredible animal species like corals to geological phenomenon like underwater volcanoes, from ancient and modern shipwrecks to sunken cities, there are millions of reasons why the public should be able to observe, discover and admire the marine environment.

Window on the sea
Here is the core reason why I decided to launch the Octopus Foundation in June 2015. The goal is to support small team of scientists who explore the sea and study either unknown marine species or underwater archeological remains. But this is not the end of the story. The Octopus Foundation aims to make these scientific discoveries accessible to the public.

This is when Sketchfab kicks in.

The Octopus Foundation team is currently working on ways to recreate in 3D what we see on the ocean floor thanks to the photogrammetry technique. But these digital models would be useless for us if they were not readable by everyone. Thanks to Sketchfab, our whole work, which can be either on living creatures or archeological remains, becomes accessible to everyone, everywhere, anytime.

To test our ability to show the underwater world to the public, we conducted during the summer 2015 a pilot mission along the island of Cephalonia in Greece. Starting from a few old aluminium plates found half buried in the sand by 17 meters deep, we decided to limit our study area to 20m by 40m. In these 800m square, we discovered thousands of small pieces of what was originally a British Bristol Beaufighter that was shot down by the German canons at the end of WWII. Thanks to this first mission, we managed to prove that with very limited fundings, the Octopus Foundation team could provide scientists with tools for their study that include a digital 3D reconstruction of an underwater area and a photographic plan with a precision of 1cm

Not only the scientists can now take all the necessary time to observe their study area from every angle, but thanks to Sketchfab, the public can also benefit from these incredible media.

Since last January, the Octopus Foundation team has been training in the Etang de Thau in the South of France in order to test its ability to 3D map the sea floor in very shallow waters (less than 4 meters deep). For this training, we have been working with the DRASSM (French national department responsible for the underwater archeological remains) as the area was a neolithic
settlement before being submerged.

Later in 2016, we are planing to go to Albania to help a team of Swiss archeologists (UNIGE) who study for the first time an ancient harbor that played an unknown key moment in Julius Cesar access to absolute power.

  • Julien Pfyffer, Founder and CEO

Thanks for sharing, Julien !

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About the author

Nicolas Guinebretière

Cultural heritage enthusiast


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