Based around the award winning He Tohu exhibition, the He Tohu VR allows you to get up close and personal with the 1835 He Whakaputanga – the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – The Treaty of Waitangi, and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine.

Creating the He Tohu VR interactive learning experience was an opportunity to do something unique to enhance learning and engagement of the historical, constitutional and cultural significance of our three documents iconic constitutional documents; A Declaration | A Treaty | A Petition.

Our objectives were to:

  • Give students on-demand access to information, using smartscreens, laptops, tablets and mobiles, helping them to discover about our past and create kōrero and learning about the importance of the taonga that shape who we are.
  • Giving teachers a useful resource for the classroom and help overcome uncertainty of the subject matter.

It was very important to us that the integrity and the mana of the documents was maintained.

To achieve this we worked with our māori advisor; a māori writer and a young māori presenter; and we used taonga poura to create the background music.

To create the experience we took thousands of images of the documents along with the internal and external of the building. We had to use low lighting in order not to damage the documents and it took 4 months of work to stitch the images together using the latest technology to create a 3d model from the images with 8K textures.  From there we used the Unreal gaming engine to bring in our presenter and teleporting features.

The quality of the photogrammetry allows users to get closer to the documents and see more detail than they can in real life as the documents are housed within glass boxes.

We worked closely with the design team to ensure the user experience was as intuitive as possible.  The majority of users haven’t tried using VR therefore having too many buttons to click on the controllers can make it confusing for them.  We simplified the user experience by just using one button and one controller (instead of two). During the user testing we found that teleporting and the use of even one button was still challenging for some people. Given this challenge, we decided to build a second option with no teleporting but just a guided tour where they can still physically get close to the documents but don’t need to worry about using the controller.

So far the VR experience has been demonstrated at Techweek and has just been installed at the national library in Auckland and Christchurch.

For those wanting to experience He Tohu from home our team built an IoS and Android application that can be downloaded here:

For the first time ever, explore the documents in high-definition directly from your smartphone.

Special thanks to Lorraine at DIA for the work she did with us to get this incredible piece of work completed and a finalist in the Best Awards.