Microsoft partners with Indigital to prevent Aboriginal culture loss

Uses augmented reality to digitally translate Aboriginal imagery and language

Microsoft has partnered with a start-up dedicated to preserving Aboriginal culture to deploy learning resources to NSW children.

The vendor worked with Indigital, a company that uses mixed and augmented reality to translate and preserve Aboriginal images and languages, to launch The Njulgang Project across five primary schools in south-western Sydney.

Commissioned by the NSW Department of Education, the project consisted of four workshops for 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pupils that were led by learning consultant Pip Cleaves, from Design, Learn, Empower, and Indigital founder Mikaela Jade.

Launched in 2012, Indigital uses drones, 4D mapping software and image recognition technology to translate cultural sites and artefacts onto a digital platform through an AR-enabled app.

Users point their mobile phone or tablet at pre-programmed symbol, object or site and an animation will start that tells a story associated with that image.

During the workshop, pupils listened to the Dharawal Dreaming Story – ‘How the Animals Came to Dharawal Country’ – from a group of tribe elders.

Credit: Microsoft

After listening to the tale, the children were tasked with drawing the story’s character on Paint 3D and Minecraft, adding personal touches and their own recorded voice speaking in the Dharawal language to the creation.

Once created, the children used Indigital’s app to stitch the voice and imagery together into an AR picture on their phone, thereby “bringing Aboriginal culture to life”, according to Microsoft.

The project was also aided by Shared Path, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social enterprise that incubates small businesses and uses them as a training ground for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Although launched as a pilot project, Microsoft is now working on scaling the program nationally.

“The Njulgang Project is incredibly important,” Microsoft Australia managing director Steven Worrall said. “With many spoken Aboriginal languages at risk of being lost, it was important that we worked together to develop a culturally appropriate program that celebrated language while equipping students with the skills, knowledge and collaborative environment in which to succeed.

“Not only has the program ignited the students’ passion for science and technology, but it has also provided them with a deeper understanding of Aboriginal language and culture and introduced them to the soft skills that are fundamental to learning in the 21st century.”