Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei explores potential of high-tech tourism with innovative AR app

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Pushing the boundaries of traditional Māori tourism offerings, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is embarking on a ground-breaking high-tech venture with the launch of an augmented reality walking tour of Takaparawhau, Bastion Point.

Launched this week in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the Auckland Virtual Tours smartphone app is designed to educate visitors on the iwi’s connection to Auckland, the treasures of the natural environment, and the cultural and historical significance of the site.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei hopes their latest tourism venture will deliver a low-impact way of capitalising on the 500,000 visitors Bastion Point receives annually.

“This precious land needs to be properly managed and protected so that it remains a sustainable asset for future generations,” said business development manager Jamie Cook.

“The iwi hopes this new venture will provide supplemental income to support infrastructure and sustainability initiatives.

The AR experience is designed to connect locals and international visitors alike with the history of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland City. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is one of the first iwi to embrace augmented reality technology to share their culture and local stories and legends with visitors.

“As well as showing leadership in the tourism sector, the app also delivers educational crossovers: “The app is delivered in three languages – English, Māori, and Mandarin – so anyone who is on a Māori language learning journey can use it as an interactive tool to further their learning.

“Oral traditions are handed down from generation to generation and this knowledge needs to be shared to survive,” Cook said. “We’re exploring new ways to share our stories and create stronger engagement with a wider audience through technology innovation.”

“The potential applications of AR and VR within the tourism sector are almost limitless. With little impact on the land and activated via something we already carry in our pockets – our smartphones.”

While fully-guided Home Fires walking tours of Bastion Point are already on offer, the iwi hopes to give more people the chance to hear their unique stories of Auckland through the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Auckland Virtual Tours app.

It provides a richly detailed, self-guided tour of Bastion Point centred around four stories linked to the four main compass points.

Designed and built by Auckland-based studio M Theory, the immersive AR experience combines 360º video, audio narratives and augmented reality overlays.

M Theory managing director Samantha Ramlu says: “Working with local iwi to bring these stories to life has been an enriching experience for our team. We’ve used technology to link the past and the future through the Māori tradition of storytelling, creating an authentic and personal experience for as many visitors as possible.

“The potential applications of AR and VR within the tourism sector are almost limitless. With little impact on the land and activated via something we already carry in our pockets – our smartphones – AR in particular offers a way of delivering a sustainable, richly memorable, tourism experience without adding anything to the physical space.”

M Theory has developed a number of high profile AR and VR projects, including the world-first personality profiler The Future of You for Torrens Universities Australia, a tool to help guide students in their choice of study – more here.

The Auckland Virtual Tours app was previewed at the 2017 Tuku Iho exhibition in Venice Beach, Los Angeles and will feature at the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance Summit, to be held in Northland in Autumn 2018.

Available in English, Māori, and Mandarin for iOS and Android devices, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Auckland Virtual Tours is available in the Apple App and Google Play Stores for $3.99-$4.49.

About Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have a rich history in Tāmaki Makaurau dating back to the very beginnings of human Māori migration from Hawaiki. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia was established in February 2013 to advance the cultural, social and environmental aspirations of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

About M Theory
This is the specialist AR and VR arm of leading creative innovations agency Method, based in Auckland, NZ. M Theory focuses on delivering interactive, immersive and awe-inspiring experiences through a range of AR and VR services.

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