For 10 weeks over the 2018-19 summer, I was involved in a project with Te Hiku Media and Dragonfly Data Science to aid in the development of a Māori voice assistant. The motivation for this project was to make Te Reo Māori more accessible and fun in the digital age.

During my internship I achieved the creation of a “box” called Rapere (translation of “Raspberry” into Te Reo Māori) containing a Raspberry Pi computer which is connected to the internet, some lights, a speaker and a microphone. This box has been coded to be continuously listening for spoken voice, and when this is detected it records what is being said until there is a longer break in the speaking (this file is overwritten each time a recording is made).

Cherie’s recording equipment set-up.

The recording is transcribed using Te Hiku Media’s Application Program Interface on koreromaori.io. The transcription that is returned to the box is compared to some key words which mean the speaker is likely asking to hear the news or to listen to the radio, or to stop playing. If these are heard, then the news or radio stream is played or stopped, and otherwise it goes back to listening for these phrases. The phrase “kia ora” lights up an LED for a few seconds. The box is able to listen for commands while playing audio, which allows the user to stop audio playing. The project was documented and all the code uploaded online to allow other developers at Te Hiku Media to progress it further and demonstrate the abilities of the Rapere box.

I experienced a great feeling of accomplishment from my work with Te Hiku Media and Dragonfly Data Science. Going from a bunch of components and an empty raspberry pi computer to having a working program with two different APIs and which plays the news on my correctly saying the appropriate phrase in Te Reo was more than I thought I would be able to achieve and I am proud of what I achieved with the help of my supervisors. I am grateful to Te Pūnaha Matatini for providing me with the opportunity to have this internship.


Author

Cherie Vasta is a recent Statistics & Psychology graduate of Victoria University of Wellington who is starting a new role at an actuarial consulting company in Auckland. Emma enjoys applying data science techniques to all kinds of problems, especially those involving people and the way they think.