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Augmented reality brings stories to life across New Zealand

Augmented reality can be used by anyone including mentally and physically disabled individuals. It blurs the line of difference between the virtual and real-world, thus increasing its usability and effectiveness in application either for business or recreational purposes.

Now, a Māori-owned (New Zealand indigenous people) digital technology company has created an app for people to upload their stories for others to discover when they visit specific places in New Zealand. The platform would allow people to bring their tales to life with audio, video, or augmented reality, which can only be experienced at the location related to the story.

According to the developers, there was a growing desire to hear the stories of all people living in the country, and as per locals, they are fascinated by their past, no matter how painful it is, because it is what shaped them as individuals and as a nation collectively.

They added that many locals saw an opportunity to pass on stories to young people who did not visit the historical places much but who engaged a lot with digital technology, and ultimately would become the protectors of those stories.

Each region would have its own stories, which could be linked up into a form of a game. The app would alert users when they entered, for example, Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, that there is a story waiting to be told nearby. The tech company also hopes that local businesses would sign up so users would receive rewards such as a discount at a local café, or a cultural experience.

The company has developed several augmented reality storytelling apps based in South Auckland locations, but it wanted to have a national, and ultimately, a global reach. They also created an app for Auckland Council using the same concept to tell the stories of Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), Māori astronomy, seasons and other aspects of nature, using an augmented reality layer on a series of large rock carvings.

Since then, the company said that they had explored options on how to use digital technology, augmented reality, and games to engage people and bring stories about life places. For them, every stream, every hill, every mountain around the place always has a story, and a lot of people do not realise that – particularly in Auckland or South Auckland, it is all built up, so people do not realise under all that concrete, there is a rich history.

The developers are also hoping that people will be able to fill all these different locations with stories, with their own stories – and obviously, there has got to be protection around that. They are currently working with the locals to see how that goes. They said that there are going to be stories that some people do not want to be told, and it is important that those stories are kept safe, and that natives have some kind of “security management” around it

Moreover, the tech company is still looking for ways to make a profit out of the tech to be sustainable. At the end of the day, they are ultimately aiming for global recognition and to encourage young people to engage with the environment and its rich history.

The tech company intends to launch the app at the end of the month and had received some interest from overseas – including Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan.

Accordingly, virtual reality and augmented reality is an emergent industry tipped to be worth around NZ$205 billion globally in the next five years, says the executive director of New Zealand’s first-ever VR/AR Association. She explains that this is a chance for top innovators in the country’s booming virtual and augmented reality sector to join forces and take stock of where they are at, and what needs to be done, to represent and promote New Zealand’s VR, AR and mixed reality tech sectors both nationally and internationally.

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