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A Virtual Reality pōwhiri developed by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is turning heads at WOMAD 2018.

More than 500 people have donned Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets and watched the fully immersive and realistic pōwhiri experience over the three-day festival.

Katie Brayne, a movement coach from Taranaki, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve been in a live powhiri before, but I really enjoyed that because it gave me time to look at it from a different perspective, to be there and enjoy the process.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa lead developer for the virtual pōwhiri project Joshua Brown says the experience is great for people unfamiliar with the traditional Māori custom.

It will also provide a unique view of a pōwhiri, so people familiar with the pōwhiri process will also enjoy and learn from the experience.

The virtual pōwhiri uses stereoscopic video and spatial audio techniques to ensure the immersive experience is as realistic as possible. Users will wear an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, with three headsets running for the duration of the festival.

Vivienne Merito, national lead for brand and recruitment at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, says the pōwhiri - which was filmed on Ōtāwhao Marae in Te Awamutu - is an authentic experience befitting the values of WOMAD.

“One of the things I love about WOMAD is the authenticity of the cultural experience, so it is important this is done well.”

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is a programme partner of WOMAD 2018.

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