Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week he talks to Amber Taylor from Ara Journeys and Callaghan Innovation’s Jonathan Miller.
To mark Techweek, I’m joined by Amber Taylor (Ngati Whatua, Te Rarawa, Ngati Mutunga), co-founder and CEO of Ara Journeys which uses augmented and mixed reality to tell stories of indigenous cultures. Ara Journeys is nominated as a finalist for Māori company of the year at this year’s Hi-Tech Awards, and Amber is also speaking on a panel celebrating Māori innovation.
I’m also joined by Jonathan Miller, group manager for Future Insights at Callaghan Innovation who was on a panel earlier this week looking at 2019’s biggest technology trends.
Simon Pound: Tell us about Ara Journeys and your mission to make a distinctly Māori tech company.
Amber Taylor: Ara stands for Augmented Reality Applications and our focus is on creating AR gaming that helps connect people to the land and to the indigenous stories that are related to our area. We talk about Māori in the sense that we want to start at home first. So we want to look at our iwi’s stories and our people. But since we’ve been developing Ara, we’ve learnt that this is something that our Pasifika neighbours are interested in also. So we do say Māori, but we also mean indigenous cultures worldwide.
What is the technology that you’re melding? Because there are these wonderful app-driven AR experiences where you can interact with nature and whenua in ways that you normally can’t and tell really interesting stories.
So we’re using AR purely because of the component that we can overlay the digital and physical worlds together. We find that sparks imagination and creates curiosity. I think the really great thing about AR is that the stories are short. We’re capturing the attention spans of kids so we’re kind of a safe platform for iwi to share their stories. They don’t have to give us the full in-depth story that’s related to their whakapapa. But we can retell parts of it and create curiosity among our users and encourage them to find out more and even visit the region.
What kind of experience do users have? You have this avatar leading people through the app, don’t you?
We have Manu who’s our bilingual Māori boy who takes you on a journey through the environment – connection to environment is really important to Māori who’s whakapapa is woven through it.
When you download the app and open it up, you can bring him to life. You hold it in certain areas and [Manu] will tell you the story of that area and some of the native life that was once there, how Māori may use the awa for fishing or for harvesting.