11 Sep 2018

Kupu: a new app for Māori Language Week

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:17 pm on 11 September 2018

Spark has unveiled a new free app called Kupu to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week).

The app's catchphrase is 'take a photo, learn a language' and its concept is pretty simple – you take a photo of something with your phone, then Kupu scans the image and tells you the name of the object in te reo Māori.

Usually, Kupu provides relevant descriptors, too – scanning a photo of an apple should bring up the reo words for 'apple', 'fruit', 'produce' and even the apple's colour, says Māori language expert Dr Dean Mahuta, who was an advisor on the app.

Dr Mahuta works for the Te Aka Māori Dictionary (the most comprehensive te reo Māori dictionary online), which Kupu links to for pronunciation audio and sample phrases.

The app is powered by Google and employs some clever image recognition technology – Dr Mahuta says he has yet to come across an object it can't recognise.

Kupu is especially engaging because it gets people interacting simultaneously with te reo Māori and their own surroundings, he says.

"It seems like New Zealand loves their pets, there's been lots of dogs and cats popping up on social media."

App technology offers a great platform for promoting te ao Māori and te reo Māori,  Dr Mahuta says.

"Our kids are all gonna be digital natives so it will be great for them to grow up knowing their language is kind of the norm in these spaces.

"One of the hard things about getting te reo Māori into these digital areas is that sometimes the cost of getting those things up and running can be offputting. I take my heart off to Spark – they've picked up the brunt of that cost and the app itself is free. It's just opening everything up."