The University of Tokyo: 3D maps capture scope of damage, add new dimension to Ukraine coverage

Pinpointing geographical location of satellite images helps paint larger picture of war

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022, continues to ravage the country, causing large-scale destruction and untold suffering to its people, as well as leaving the world reeling from shock waves felt around the globe. While the media keeps reporting on the situation day after day, it can be difficult to judge what information and sources can be trusted.

We caught up with Professor Hidenori Watanave of the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, who has been visualizing data of Ukraine’s reality, through the eyes of an information design researcher. He uses satellite imagery and 3D models as tools, which not only visualize the war’s destruction, but could also open the door to a new kind of journalism.


Companies like Maxar Technologies and BlackSky release distinctive images culled from the imagery collected by their proprietary satellites. Such images are circulated around the world through online articles and social media, but they do not provide detailed location data, making it difficult to pinpoint the precise spot in Ukraine that they represent. The only things we recognize are the names of places like the city Mariupol. What our team is working on is locating and identifying on Google Earth the detailed locations of the distributed satellite imagery. Once they’ve been identified, we adjust the aspect ratio, orientation and distortion of the images so that they overlap exactly with the actual locations, and then map and release them through the digital globe platform Cesium.


My job is to collect data from those trying to document and pass on to posterity Ukraine’s reality during the war, and using the latest technology and design to express and disseminate that reality in a form that is easy to understand. At the moment, our digital map functions as a real-time depiction of the war as it unfolds, but in the future, it may serve as a repository of memories for tracing what happened in this war.

Read the interview
You can donate to TechUkraine here.
Ukrainian entrepreneurs donate to the military-1
Support Ukraine!
  • Come Back Alive is one of the largest charitable foundations that supports Ukrainian soldiers, founded by the IT specialist Vitaliy Deynega. The organization collected more than 210 million UAH (more than $7M) in 2014. According to Na chasi, the Patreon page Come Back Alive is in the top ten projects by the number of financial donations.
  • MacPaw Development Fund
  • Army SOS, which develops drones;
  • Everybody Can, an organization that supports internally displaced people;
  • Help on the Ministry of Defense website.