There’s no question that Te Papa likes to push the boundaries about what one expects from a museum. So when it launched its own entrepreneurial residential programme, known as Mahuki (which means “perceptive”), earlier this year, entrepreneurs clamoured to get involved for access to Te Papa’s expert knowledge, network, and mentorship from some of Aotearoa’s best and brightest.
Nine companies all presented what they’ve been working on at a showcase evening on December 5 at Te Papa. Accompanied by speeches by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, Te Papa chief executive Rick Ellis, innovation hub general manager Tui Te Hau, entrepreneur-in-residence Tim von Dadelszen, Vodafone regional manager Paul Sara (aside from Te Papa pouring in about $1 million for Mahuki, Vodafone put in about $150,000) and Te Papa chief digital officer Melissa Firth, the evening offered an opportunity for the entrepreneurs involved in Mahuki to pitch their ideas to potential investors. Tech was a dominant theme – think virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), apps, digital toolkits, and more.
“At Te Papa we are passionate about activating new kinds of storytelling, and enabling New Zealanders to access their national collections in new ways,” said Ellis. “The incredible businesses and ideas developed at Mahuki give us more options to continue delivering a world class visitor experience.”
Dan Milward of Gamefroot. Image: Mike O'Neill
Te Hau also had high praise. “Over the last four months we’ve been working with innovators at the cutting edge of technology; interactive holograms, out of home virtual reality experiences and indoor location based services to name a few.”
Open Window's Lochana Wijesundera. Image: Mike O'Neill
Ellis added that he believed successful innovations from the Mahuki programme may be taken up by Te Papa and the New Zealand cultural sector, and exported globally. “I firmly believe that businesses and ideas developed at Mahuki can transform the way New Zealanders understand our country, and each other. The entrepreneur’s business have the potential to reach beyond our shores to share stories with the world.”
Lifeng Zhu of Breadcrumb. Image: Mike O'Neill
He also said the innovation hub model enables Te Papa to tap in to the creativity of New Zealand companies. "In the next four years our renewal programme will see us make the most dramatic changes to the museum since opening,. Te Papa has always been a creative powerhouse, and working with these exciting businesses will bring new ideas into the mix."
We pick our six favourite companies from the programme.
Most of us are familiar with the interactive holograms in Star Wars. After all, they’re one of the most iconic pieces of tech in the sci-fi franchise. But they’re just pure fantasy, right? The folks at Point Zero clearly disagree, because they’re created interactive holographic displays for the museum space that simply conveys complex ideas in science and technology. The company’s main product is Holospace, the only display technology that combines 3D holograms with interactive content to educate and inspire audience. Believe us: a demonstration at the showcase evening was quite literally took the audience’s breath away.
And we can also expect to see this technology in museums around the world: the company, led by founder Chris Mather, has been in talks with potential clients across the globe. We can’t wait.
Chris Mather, Point Zero. Image: Mike O'Neill
Koha empowers indigenous cultures through digital tech and mobile communications, which allows whanau and the wider community to learn about Iwi taonga. The company is dedicated to telling lost stories through virtual and augmented reality, making it possible to uncover ancestry an heritage that is stories, treasured and portrayed through mobile apps, web portals and social platforms. Translation: Koha helps Māori culture not only survive, but thrive amid a changing world thanks to its iwi connections.
Koha's Ethan Sagar. Image: Mike O'Neill
Let’s be real here: when you’re overseas – such as in the Solomon Islands or French Polynesia – and see a cool-looking wooden keychain you’d like to buy as a memento of your trip, chances aren’t it wasn’t locally produced, and worse, your purchase probably goes to an overseas conglomerate instead of to local artisans and craftspeople. The folks at Craftmapper know this, too, and are doing something about it with technology.
Craftmapper’s online craft inventory framework guides communities through a simple, systematic process that records the skills, designs, materials and practitioners within a community – in other words, it identifies who makes what, what it’s made with, and how it is made. In this way, traditional cultures can be preserved – while at the same time helping craftspeople find markets for their creations. Craftmapper also offers market readiness training and distributes authentic handcrafted products to museum shops and galleries around the world – meaning the real thing can survive, rather than cheap, inauthentic knockoffs.
Chris Delaney of Craftmapper. Image: Mike O'Neill
Meaning “to excite or evoke,” Excio brings artwork to life on mobile screens by creating interactive images. Viewers can click on or highlight certain sections of a piece of art to learn more about it, learning about the artist, techniques, and more. Even better, the art can be downloaded to be shown as a smartphone background image, for example – meaning learning more about amazing art is never more than the touch of a button away.
Excio's Ana Lyubich. Image: Mike O'Neill
Dot Dot brings VR to museums with The Empathy Machine, a digital experience that lets museum visitors walk around and “touch” virtual objects. When a museum decides to utilise The Empathy Machine, Dot Dot provides everything that’s needed – including custom installation, hardware, equipment maintenance, and content updates. Considering an estimated 95 percent of a museum’s collections are not on public display at any one time, The Empathy Machine allows those items to be “shown” to real-life audiences. In sum: it’s how The Jetsons would experience a museum.
Dot Dot presents The Empathy Machine - VR #mahukiNZ— Melissa Firth (@mslissa) December 5, 2016
Chris White, Dot Dot. Image: Mike O'Neill
Curio’s software platform allows museums to make their own object-centric, digital interactive exhibits. Such technology allows museums to make displays that people living in the 21st century can relate to – and they can be created with no technical skills required. Even better, the platform costs far, far less than a bespoke museum exhibition – making it a win-win for both museum visitors and museums themselves.