09 March 2021

Manu and the journey of knowledge in Manukau

Manu and the journey  of knowledge in Manukau

Manu is a unique augmented reality experience

The Journeys of Manu is a unique augmented reality app that brings Māori mātauranga (knowledge) and physical activity together in one innovative package.

Launched at the Puhinui Stream Challenge event in 2017, the concept was developed by AUT University's Research and Innovation department, Healthy Families Manukau and The Southern Initiative (TSI).

Panuku collaborated on the evolution of the Manu app and facilitated field-testing at events, as a way to harness innovation opportunities for cultural learnings in Manukau’s urban heart.

The GPS-enabled app superimposes the animated, bilingual Māori youth 'Manu', onto real-life environments through a mobile phone or other device.

Users can join Manu on his quest to explore different areas of Aotearoa, and learn about how the stars and moon cycle were used to determine the ideal days for planting and fishing.

Manu also teaches people about Manukau’s key landmarks along the Puhinui Stream trail and the tohu (signs) of spring according to the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar).

The technical mastery of the app belongs to Dr Isaac Warbrick and his team at ARA Journeys. ARA Journeys is a collective of digital storytellers in Auckland that love to weave Māori culture and te reo through augmented (AR) and mixed (MR) digital technologies.

We caught up with Isaac to find out how the Journeys of Manu app has evolved since its inception.

Users can join Manu on his quest to explore different areas of Aotearoa

“We have migrated The Journeys of Manu to a new platform we built so that Manu could be placed anywhere in the world.”

We caught up with Isaac to find out how the Journeys of Manu app has evolved since its inception.

Panuku: How has Panuku been involved in bringing mātauranga (knowledge) to Manukau communities with this app?

Isaac: “The Panuku team conceptualised and helped create a series of portable rock sculptures that would interact with the app. These rock sculptures were created at the Rock Sculpture Symposium, and in collaboration with Healthy Families. At the event, 10 local rock sculptors carved the artworks out of Oamaru Limestone.

Panuku then commissioned the ARA team to advance the ‘Journey of Manu’ app to use geo-location (markers based on GPS) so it could identify these rock sculptures, even when the rocks are moved to different locations. We can change the locations within the programme so Manu can go where the carvings go.

These sculptures are regularly used to advance Māori knowledge in South Auckland. One example was at the Tech Week show at the Vodaphone Events Centre. Panuku has also helped build our app’s audience to include mana whenua and our rough-sleeping community within Manukau.”

Panuku: How well has the app been received by communities in Manukau?

Isaac: “We have done a lot of field testing at council events such as The Puhinui Stream Challenge and South Auckland Tech Week. The reactions from families has been very positive, they often comment that it is a fun way to use technology and learn about the stories of the area.

Parents enjoy searching for Manu with their kids and think it is a positive way for their children to use devices. Teachers and educators often comment about how engaging and effective the app is for teaching history and cultural knowledge.”

Panuku: Has the app evolved any new features?

Isaac: “We have migrated The Journeys of Manu to a new platform we built so that Manu could be placed anywhere in the world. Now users can follow a map to find where he is close to them (Manu can pop up from anywhere). In fact, we have ‘dropped’ Manu at GPS locations in Hawaii, Rarotonga and Australia to demonstrate this concept among our indigenous whanaunga overseas.”

Panuku: What have been some of the most enjoyable moments introducing the app at events?

Isaac: “Seeing the surprise on people’s faces of all ages (our kaumatua are the best to watch) when they see Manu pop out of the back of a shirt or under a tree in front of them.

I’ve heard kids talking with their parents about some of the stories in the app – it’s awesome to see kids learning some of our traditional mātauranga or about the environment from playing a game.”

Panuku: How can apps like 'The Journeys of Manu' further reconnecting Māori with their whakapapa and mātauranga?

Isaac: “Since the Journeys of Manu app was launched, we have begun development of new digital games. One of these is with the support of Foundation North’s Community Innovation Fund. We are working with mana whenua groups in South Auckland so that the game provides an innovative and engaging way to tell their stories, while people move around south Auckland.”

The free 'Journeys of Manu' app is available on Google Play and the App Store – just search 'Manu Journey'.

Stay up to date.

Sign up to our newsletter