Vancouver app uses augmented reality to tell Indigenous stories
'Wikiupedia' is similar to Pokemon Go in that it will encourage the user to walk to find locators that can then be clicked on to find multimedia stories.
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In the city, many people's interactions with Indigenous stories are limited – likely consisting of experiences such as viewing a totem pole, or walking under cedar trees.
But Adrian Duke says a new augmented reality app he's developing will soon allow anyone to have rich experiences with culture and traditional knowledge at the click of a button.
“People have been looking for ways to preserve stories for a long time,” he said.
“It's just become easier to do as technology has evolved because of the advancements, especially in augmented reality.”
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Duke, a member of Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan, works in the Vancouver tech industry. His new Indigenous knowledge-sharing app called “Wikiupedia,” a project of the Vancouver Native Housing Society, is now in the final stages of testing.
The name is a play on Wikipedia because, like the website, it will use community-sourced knowledge. A wikiup is also a traditional housing structure.
The app is similar to Pokemon Go in that it will encourage the user to walk to find locators that can then be clicked on to find multimedia stories. 3D animal avatars designed by Indigenous artists will help guide the experience.
“For example you could (follow) a trail through Stanley Park. You get to each one of the markers, you can interact with the story, and you can see where that story is being told,” Duke explained.
“So, there are a bunch of totem poles in the park, there are beaches that used to be traditional fishing sites, or you could learn about traditional plants.”
The stories in text, audio, video and/or photo format will also be available to view online, minus the augmented reality element, he said.
The app's creation was funded through a federal government grant of about $200,000. It's set to launch publicly at the Vancouver Native Housing Society's Kanata Festival in June, and will be available to guide people through the festival grounds.
Duke said the app is purely educational and isn't about owning stories or collecting money – he expects it will eventually be used by schools as part of the new Indigenous-focused curriculum, and in the tourism industry.
Until then, Duke has set a goal of collecting 600 stories from Indigenous people across Canada.
His team is also in the process of vetting cultural authenticators to ensure the stories and traditional knowledge being shared are as accurate as possible.
“Within a month or so we'll be adding functionality for story catching,” he said.
“The public will be able to download it and add their stories. ... Once we've collected 600 stories, hopefully more, then we'll have something interesting for the general public to check out.”