October 24, 2019
Papa Reo digital vision wins science fund backing
The head of a project to teach computers to speak te reo Māori says it’s a way of ensuring the language has a digital future.
Kaitaia-based Te Hiku Media has won a $13 million grant from the government’s Strategic Science Investment Fund to support the Papa Reo project over the next seven years.
Peter Lucas Jones says the project came out of a hui in Awanui six years ago in which native speakers over the age of 75 discussed the future of te reo on Māori radio.
With help from the Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund, engineer and physicist Keoni Mahelona was placed in the Kaitaia-based organisation to build its science and innovation capabilities.
More than 400 hours of Māori language programming was tagged to provide a foundation for machine learning and artificial intelligence systems.
"Everybody is engaging with either an iPad, a computer, a telephone of some description, some sort of digital device, and this ensures they can communicate in te reo Māori. We must ensure that our language is not just an academic language but a method of communication and has that digital future," Mr Jones says.
Papa Reo will also be able to help machines learn New Zealand English, Pacific language and other languages which are in need of revitalisation.
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