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Telcos mark Te wiki o te reo Māori

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 11 September 2018, 10:26 am

Rorohiko pōnaho, tātaitai, and pēne are three words learned today thanks to a new app, Kupu, launched for Te wiki o te reo Māori or Māori language week. Translated into English these words mean laptop, calculator and pen. With Kupu, you take a photo and it uses image recognition to identify what is in the picture and then provides Te Reo Māori translation for the object.

Kupu (which is directly translated to 'word') has been developed by Spark and Te Aka Māori Dictionary. According to Spark's release, the app uses Google Cloud Vision backed by Te Aka Māori Dictionary data, powered by Google's Artificial Intelligence technology. Kupu is free to download on the Google Play Store and iOS app store.

A key adviser on the project is Dr Dean Mahuta, a Senior Lecturer at AUT and Māori language researcher at the National Māori Language Institute. He describes Kupu as "the first learning tool to translate pictures in real-time".

"Using technology and digital platforms is a great way to encourage the use and learning of Te Reo Māori. Te Aka Māori Dictionary has over 300,000 visitors to its website per month, with over 50% of those visitors being new users," he says.

As Kupu uses AI technology that is constantly learning and iterating, translation accuracy will improve over time as users are encouraged to log inaccuracies. A nice feature of the app is that if the photo contains several objects, or if there are different ways to interpret the same object, it provides multiple options. For example, while it detected rorohiko pōnaho (laptop), it also gave me options such as hangarau (technology) and rorohiko (computer).

The app's privacy policy states that users' photos are shared with Google Asia Pacific, which provides the translation service, but these are stored temporarily and for the purpose of image recognition. It's recommended however that users don't upload any personal or financial information. Also, the app collects data such as the number of downloads and the geographical location of the user and it may publish this aggregated data but won't disclose information about individual users.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has also launched an app this week to promote te reo Māori. Hika Vodafone is a staff app to "engage the organisation in revitalising te reo. This means staff will have the opportunity to learn te reo and incorporate it into everyday life - at work and at home."

In its release Vodafone says it has formed a strategic partnership with the Māori Language Commission, and signed a Mahi Tahi agreement. The commission's chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui says it is exciting to work with a "big company that is taking serious and genuine steps to increase the use, status and modern day relevance of the language."

"This is a big win for te reo Māori because here we have a company telling more than three million of their customers there's a special place for the language in everyday life and in big business New Zealand." 


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John Libranda 11 September 2018, 5:56 pm

Telcos mark Te wiki o te reo Māori


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