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Te Ao Māori VR Experience Gets NZ Film Commission Interactive Development Funding

31 July 2017

Left to right: Professor Te Kani Kingi, Manager – Strategic Projects Awanuiārangi; Kat Lintott, Co-founder of Wrestler a Creative Video / VR Agency; Malcolm Mulholland, Senior Research Officer, Massey University.

Creative video and VR agency, Wrestler and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi have secured funding from the NZ Film Commission to develop a virtual reality (VR) experience.

The VR experience, titled Te Tahi o te Rangi, will be a visually stunning journey and interactive kōrero purakau (story) made in association with Ngāti Awa and the Mātaatua Wharenui.

The project is backed by respected industry leaders; Kat Lintott, Taika Waititi, Joe Harawira, Malcolm Mulholland, Professor Te Kani Kingi, Ben Forman and Chris Ward.

Renowned storyteller Joe Harawira will bring to life Māori myths and legends as the viewer is immersed inside the Ngāti Awa Mātaatua Wharenui, where the old world and new world collide. It will be a carefully crafted, co-constructed interactive experience where audiences will explore and marvel at ancient Māori stories brought to life in VR.

The partnership between Wrestler and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is not only to create the VR experience but to inspire the next generation of storytellers to understand and explore new technologies.

Professor Te Kani Kingi, Manager – Strategic Projects Awanuiārangi said, “Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is incredibly excited about this collaboration. The initiative builds on our current interest in technology and innovation and signals our intention to further engage in cutting edge, world class research. The project will provide significant opportunities for our staff and students as well as strengthening our relationship with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa. The potential to drive local economic activity through this initiative is something we are also keen to explore.”

The funding to create this VR experience has been secured by New Zealand Film Commission’s Interactive Development Fund, which is the first of its kind. The panel is made up of two international readers from the Virtual Reality and Gaming industries and three internal NZFC readers, who state that “This has the potential to be a great resource to learn more about Te Ao Māori in an immersive and experiential way – for those who don’t get access to a marae; bringing it to them.”

Kat Lintott, Co-Founder & Head of VR/AR at Wrestler said “New Zealand is so well positioned to become world leaders in interactive storytelling using new capture technology partnered with the new distributions platforms of VR and AR. With 8i, Weta Group, Pic Pok and Magic Leap as some of the big players in Wellington working in this area, it’s great to see the NZFC supporting the development of NZ local storytelling. New Zealand and Te Ao Māori have such amazing stories to tell I’m glad that we are able to start bringing them to life with these new technologies.”

The project will start development in the second half of 2017.