Ātea: Developing Māori digital capacity and engagement

2018 – 2024



  • Ātea, using new technologies in novel ways to design and build digital spaces guided by Māori protocol and worldviews.
  • Ātea incorporates augmented, virtual and mixed realities to share history, knowledge and stories.
  • Immersive environments enable communities to experience their language, culture and knowledge.
  • Customizing a content management system to connect dispersed communities.
  • The Ātea Spearhead is engaging widely with the research sector, industry, communities and iwi to develop growing Māori digital economy.


Ātea is a research project leveraging technology to create a Māori digital ecosystem that provides a platform for cultural and digital aspirations.

The spearhead project emerged from a Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge workshop, where Te Whānau-ā-Apanui tribal leader Rikirangi Gage posed an intriguing question:

“What if in 200-300 years’ time I was able to be a hologram and my mokopuna could sit there and talk to me and I could explain, for example, how the Star Compass worked. Wouldn’t that be awesome!”

That vision motivated University of Waikato Associate Professor Dr. Hēmi Whaanga to develop the concept of Ātea, a digital space that uses new technologies and novel approaches to enable Māori to interactively engage with their language, culture and knowledge. The multidisciplinary project team aims to design an immersive experience for future generations, addressing the Vision Mātauranga goals of the SfTI Challenge, to connect dispersed Māori communities.


Creating Ātea

Ātea’s unique approach to building this digital space is broader in scope than any similar project completed to date. The team aims to provide innovative ways for Māori to connect to their reo, whakapapa, whānau, iwi, and cultural knowledge.

Ātea advisors pose fundamental questions during design and development. Notions such as “Does AI have a wairua (soul), or a mauri (life force)?” are examples of the concepts that need to be addressed.

The opportunity to collaborate with various industry, community, and iwi groups, will support the development of workable long-term outcomes. The Ātea Spearhead, therefore, presents novel and unique methods of engagement and presence for Māori while providing sustainable digitally-based economic development opportunities.

Project Team

Rob Lindeman, HIT Lab NZ, University of Canterbury
Kris Tong, HIT Lab NZ, University of Canterbury
Holger Regenbrecht, University of Otago
Hēmi Whaanga, University of Waikato
Te Taka Keegan,University of Waikato
David Bainbridge, University of Waikato

Read more about this SfTI Mission-led Spearhead Project.