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journeys of manu

Story written on Nov 15, 2017

The Journeys of Manu

Exciting technology is helping bring mātauranga Māori and physical activity together with the launch of a new augmented reality app for Manukau, the first of its kind in Aotearoa.

‘The Journeys of Manu’ prototype, made by Conical Interactive studios, was activated at the Puhinui Stream Challenge on 28 October, 2017. The Challenge was a free, all-ages 6km ‘fun walk’ from Hayman Park to Totara Park and had approximately 500 registered participants.

The technology superimposes the animated Māori youth, ‘Manu’, when participants view their route on their device through the app.

“Manu will teach people about some of the Manukau landmarks along the trail and about the tohu (signs) of Spring according to the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar),” says Isaac Warbrick of AUT University’s Taupua Waiora centre for Māori health research.

“For example, alongside the awa (stream) you learn about tuna (eels) spawning and further along about maara kūmara (sweet potato gardens). You then collect the virtual taonga (token) for your kete (basket) and at the end of the trail, the taonga reveal a key word, a sort of prize for reaching the end,” he adds.

Families can also take photos with Manu from their phones or tablets and share them online.

The concept for the app was developed by AUT University’s Research and Innovation, Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura, Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative (TSI). All three organisations have a strong interest in South Auckland and a willingness to collaborate broadly.  

The group have spent the past 6 months exploring ways to make Hayman Park in Manukau a 21st Century park as part of the Transform Manukau project.

“The ultimate goal is to give the community interactive experiences that support health and wellbeing, and bring together culture and technology,” says Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura Kaiwhakahau, Anaru Ah Kew.

“Using augmented reality in this way is an opportunity to use innovation that helps people move more.  Similar to how games like Pokemon Go encouraged many to get out and be active, exploring their neighbourhoods, ‘The Journeys of Manu’ reconnects our whakapapa and mātauranga through physical activity.

“The effect of pairing Māori systems with innovation like this is not just systems change, but ‘systems return’.  This means taking us back to our traditional ways of being where we rely on our environment as indicators of time, health and wellness.”

Looking at the use of cultural knowledge as an important driver of health and wellbeing is one of the key focus areas for Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura in their work to create healthy changes in their local community.  This involves working with Māori, educators, academics and the Council to try traditional approaches to modern issues.

“The Puhinui Stream Challenge is the perfect opportunity to support the Manurewa Local Board, adding a dynamic element to the ‘fun walk’, and test what an augmented reality app for the Manukau region could look like,” says David Rameka of The Southern Initiative. “With the prototype now live, iwi and other groups we work alongside can see how augmented reality technology is applied and we can work together further to develop cultural narratives that encompass the whole region.” 

Now that the prototype has been tested at a large-scale local event, the team will be sharing it amongst local schools and installing markers along the pathway for public to access and use the app on location this Summer.


Radio Waatea

Maori Television (te reo Maori)



The free ‘Journeys of Manu’ app is available on Google Play and the App Store – just search ‘Manu Journey’. The app requires data for download but once downloaded, can be used offline.

Google Play: