The start-up bringing Māori and Pasifika stories to life with a bit of light and magic

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. This week he talks to Vaka Interactiv CEO and co-founder Jesse Armstrong.

This week’s Business is Boring podcast talks with an entrepreneur who is changing the way that stories, especially Māori and Pasifika stories, are told in museums, art and business. In a half hour chat with CEO Jesse Armstrong we hear about how he co-founded their company, Vaka Interactive; landed on the idea for pictures that talk to you; got into Te Papa’s cultural idea accelerator; and ended up making a piece of technology that would fit right into a Harry Potter movie.

The idea traces back to a visit to a museum and a realisation that although museums have come a long way, a lot of what goes on is still quite passive: an exhibit and maybe a little bit of text to explain it. And the bits of text are so often dry and lifeless. Armstrong thought, ‘Imagine if these things could tell you, really tell you, all their stories, and what if you could ask them questions?’ And then they found a way to make it happen.

Vaka Interactiv create the technology and visual storytelling for talking pictures that you might find in museums, and other places or businesses with stories to tell. Its product looks like a normal photo, and then, Harry Potter like, they notice you watching and start telling you the story. You can prompt them and ask questions, and the technology is being used by artists and museums to bring exhibits to life.

The company calls this technology Culture Lens, and it is the stories of Māori and Pasifika culture that the founders are particularly excited to capture and share. CEO and co-founder Jesse Armstrong joined the podcast to talk the journey through founding, their time at Mahuki, the Te Papa innovation accelerator, how the whole team moved to Wellington, how access to funding and support (thanks Callaghan Innovation) helped them create this mix of art and science, and the growth to today, including great advice for people wanting to make their own impact around capturing and sharing the stories that make this country special. Ka rawe!

Either download this episode (right click and save)have a listen below or via Spotify, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.


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