COLLABORATION

RMIT collaboration develops AR linguistic experience in Melbourne

SOURCE: William West/AFP
The app, 64 Ways of Being will allow tourists and locals to explore various spots in Melbourne and discover in depth meaning behind them.

Thanks to a unique and creative initiative, the city of Melbourne is about to be transformed into a world of words, art and meaning, all playable from your digital devices. 

A team of researchers from RMIT University are working with live arts collective One Step at a Time Like This and game developer Millipede to create 64 Ways of Being, an augmented reality (AR) game that blends live art, game design and public art across 64 prime locations across Melbourne. 

The game aims to open a whole new dimension for tourists and locals alike who will be able to discover new meanings behind each location in the game. This solidifies Melbourne’s linguistic, cultural, social and urban diversity and main identity. 

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As for the linguistic aspect of the game, considering Melbourne is rich in cultural diversity, there are countless spoken and unspoken languages that have connections to the city. 

In order to accurately represent this, the research team is now accepting online submissions from the locals for foreign, “untranslatable” words that should be in the app. 

By “untranslatable”, they mean words in foreign languages or dialects that hold a complex meaning of feeling and emotions that may not necessarily be able to translate well into the English language. 

“Right now we need the public’s help to collect unique words in languages other than English that relate to feelings or emotions connected to place,” said RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow Dr Troy Innocent. 

“We’ve already had some great words submitted in our survey. For example, in Portuguese the word ‘saudade‘ relates to the feeling of nostalgia, or longing for a person or thing that is distant or now unreachable. The closest phrase we have in English is to feel nostalgic for wanting to spend time with someone – but there is no direct translation.” 

Among some of the other example of untranslatable words that the team found were: 

  • Noogal (Australian Aboriginal languages Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung) – denoting a sense of belonging
  • Hygge (Danish) – the cosiness and comfortable atmosphere around friends and family
  • Ikigai (Japanese) – the reason for being and waking up in the morning
  • Qì chang (Chinese Mandarin) – the energy between and surrounding multiple people
  • Eleutheromania (Greek) – the intense, irrepressible desire for freedom
  • Sevdah (Bosnian) – the amorous yearning and ecstasy for love

The team aims to collect 64 of these words for the app that is planned to be launched at the end of this year. 

“Our vision of the playable city will take tourists and residents alike to different places and experiences around Melbourne, reconnecting people to the city as a lived experience,” Added Dr Innocent.

“As the app guides players through the city, unexpected locations will come to life in augmented reality – each evoking a different feeling, or way of being – that highlights a word from a different language.”

The partnership between RMIT, Millipede and One Step at a Time received a total of AU$950,000 in total funds from the Creative Victoria grant in 2018 with the aim to make Melbourne a playable city for both tourists and locals alike to rediscover and cherish. 

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While this is an innovative initiative aimed at the local tourism industry, it is also a valiant effort in preserving the heritage of indigenous and non-spoken languages. 

The team is currently working with Australian aboriginal groups such as the Wurundjeri Tribe Council and the Boon Wurrung Foundation. They are also reaching out to the Auslan and VicDeaf community for non-spoken languages.    

This initiative has the support of the Victorian government through the Creative Victoria grant. 

Submissions of untranslatable words with emotional and impactful meanings can be made until 31 March 2020 via the 64 Ways of Being survey