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Auckland iwi uses AR to bring their stories to life

Auckland iwi, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, had an aspiration to deliver the ultimate Maori storytelling experience. 

This vision coincided with the emergence of Datacom’s augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) practice in Auckland, an alignment that gave both parties an ideal opportunity to experiment, test and then prototype potential platforms.

One particular legend was selected to illustrate the effectiveness of this new tool. 

This story revolved around Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s guardian, Owāku, which is represented by the Haast Eagle that looks out from the roof of the iwi’s Bastion Point Marae. 

Microsoft’s Hololens was adopted as the content delivery device, allowing visitors within the Marae to experience Owāku coming to life.

The aim of the experience is to emotionally engage all Ngāti Whātua, young and old, as well as the wider public, in an experience that will present the legend of Owāku, and the iwi, in a new, state-of-the-art light.

The process began with the formation of a team, which combined Datacom’s 3D design and development expertise with storytelling and impactful audio and visual skills from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

After an initial period of brainstorming, co-design, and storyboarding of the ideal user experience, the team moved on to single-week prototyping sprints, each culminating with a showcase to demonstrate the results to senior stakeholders.

In this way, the ideas were quickly honed to the point where the experience promised to take hold of peoples’ hearts and minds.

The end result was a 3D eagle (Owāku) flying into the real world and using both Te Reo Maori and English to introduce himself as a fearsome guardian. 

Once the viewer responds by greeting Owāku with his name, the fierce bird transforms into a gentle, playful eagle, which takes virtual flight within the physical space, and then engages the user in a short Maori quiz.

According to Datacom the feedback from the prototype was resoundingly positive. 

One kuia thanked the team for bringing new life to the stories she’d heard from her grandmother while younger team members said they had been highly engaged by the quiz aspect of the experience.

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