High-tech approach joins two worlds

Kauhanga combines technology with storytelling.

Kauhanga combines technology with storytelling.

STORYTELLING IN SPACE: The physical and non-physical world star in a digital installation that combines Maori mythological concepts and storytelling with high technology in Gisborne woman Harmony Repia and project partner Lachie Philipson’s award-winning design project Kauhanga.
Picture by Lachie Philipson

A galaxy of particles projected onto a wall coalesce to match the viewer’s form in Kauhanga, an interactive digital experience created by Gisborne woman Harmony Repia and project partner Lachie Philipson.

The project won the Massey University College of Creative Arts communication design students gold and bronze medals at the recent Best Design Awards.

Kauhanga a live, interactive digital experience

Kauhanga means “sacred passageway” and is presented as a live, interactive, digital experience that combines high technology with storytelling at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

“Kauhanga is a spatial interface that presents the untold stories of Maori wahine from the First World War,” says Repia.

“I was the conceptual person for this project while Lachie was the technical person.”

Repia researched the undocumented stories of Maori women’s experience of World War 1. When viewers “connect” with spots of light that move across the wall like erratic planets, the contact triggers snippets of the stories told to Repia by historian Taina McGregor.

The physical and non-physical world features strongly in Repia’s concept which was to create the work so Ranginui the sky, and father of all things, is at the top of the screen and Papatuanuku, the earth, and mother of all things, is at the bottom.

“We researched sounds such as bird calls for Rangi and earthy sounds like rustling trees, rumbling and kakapo for Papa.”

Repia was also responsible for the narrative in the work — so between Rangi and Papa is te ao marama, the natural world and dwelling place of humans. This is where the viewer interacts with the stories

“When you move your hands and body you are able to to play snippets of those stories.”

Philipson’s role was to explore the technology needed to blur boundaries between the physical and non physical.

“I looked at generative design using algorithms to create a design output,” he says

Generative design is a technology that mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design. It starts with design goals then explores possible permutations of a solution to find the best option. In computer science, an algorithm is a self-contained set of step-by-step operations.

Philipson’s algorithms created a “particle system” that projects dots on to a wall in a dark room. The particle system responds to the viewer’s movement to generate imagery.

“As people move around, the light particles follow them around and create silhouettes or digital shadows.”

These are fluid forms created from streaked particles.

Repia and Philipson also wanted the installation to be a contemplative, meditative space. Along with sound effects found by Repia, Philipson’s brother, a music student, composed an ambient soundscape for the work.

To blur the boundary between the physical and non-physical, Philipson used a motion-sensing device developed for video game consoles. The Kinect device did not catch on for game-players because they prefer to stay seated, says Philipson.

But for the Kauhanga spatial interface the device worked a treat. The Kinect sensor uses infrared light to act as a depth-mapping device. The non-visible light bounces off people and triggers matching form and motion on the wall.

“As audience members interact with the wall they activate sounds and snippets of the historian’s stories,” says Philipson.

  • To view Kauhanga, visit http://lachie.design/kauhanga-spatial-interface

A galaxy of particles projected onto a wall coalesce to match the viewer’s form in Kauhanga, an interactive digital experience created by Gisborne woman Harmony Repia and project partner Lachie Philipson.

The project won the Massey University College of Creative Arts communication design students gold and bronze medals at the recent Best Design Awards.

Kauhanga a live, interactive digital experience

Kauhanga means “sacred passageway” and is presented as a live, interactive, digital experience that combines high technology with storytelling at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

“Kauhanga is a spatial interface that presents the untold stories of Maori wahine from the First World War,” says Repia.

“I was the conceptual person for this project while Lachie was the technical person.”

Repia researched the undocumented stories of Maori women’s experience of World War 1. When viewers “connect” with spots of light that move across the wall like erratic planets, the contact triggers snippets of the stories told to Repia by historian Taina McGregor.

The physical and non-physical world features strongly in Repia’s concept which was to create the work so Ranginui the sky, and father of all things, is at the top of the screen and Papatuanuku, the earth, and mother of all things, is at the bottom.

“We researched sounds such as bird calls for Rangi and earthy sounds like rustling trees, rumbling and kakapo for Papa.”

Repia was also responsible for the narrative in the work — so between Rangi and Papa is te ao marama, the natural world and dwelling place of humans. This is where the viewer interacts with the stories

“When you move your hands and body you are able to to play snippets of those stories.”

Philipson’s role was to explore the technology needed to blur boundaries between the physical and non physical.

“I looked at generative design using algorithms to create a design output,” he says

Generative design is a technology that mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design. It starts with design goals then explores possible permutations of a solution to find the best option. In computer science, an algorithm is a self-contained set of step-by-step operations.

Philipson’s algorithms created a “particle system” that projects dots on to a wall in a dark room. The particle system responds to the viewer’s movement to generate imagery.

“As people move around, the light particles follow them around and create silhouettes or digital shadows.”

These are fluid forms created from streaked particles.

Repia and Philipson also wanted the installation to be a contemplative, meditative space. Along with sound effects found by Repia, Philipson’s brother, a music student, composed an ambient soundscape for the work.

To blur the boundary between the physical and non-physical, Philipson used a motion-sensing device developed for video game consoles. The Kinect device did not catch on for game-players because they prefer to stay seated, says Philipson.

But for the Kauhanga spatial interface the device worked a treat. The Kinect sensor uses infrared light to act as a depth-mapping device. The non-visible light bounces off people and triggers matching form and motion on the wall.

“As audience members interact with the wall they activate sounds and snippets of the historian’s stories,” says Philipson.

  • To view Kauhanga, visit http://lachie.design/kauhanga-spatial-interface
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