April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Demonstrations: Description

Polynesian Navigation: Communicating Oral Tradition Through a 3-D Immersive Interactive

David Beck, Exploratorium, USA

Pacific Islanders were expertly navigating the Pacific thousands of years before Europeans arrived. Techniques for navigating were passed from generation to generation through oral tradition, but over time and for a variety of reasons, this information was all but lost. Beginning in the 1960s, Hawaiians and others set out to recover and relearn these techniques, culminating in several celebrated transpacific voyages in double-hulled canoes, accomplished without the aid of modern equipment.

Through a NASA-funded grant, the Exploratorium is creating a Web project (launching in early 2010) that will explore the science and culture of Polynesian navigation and how it relates to current research in astrophysics. A portion of the site will be a Flash-based, 3-D interactive in which the visitor learns to pilot a boat and steer by the stars, with lessons and guidance provided by master navigator Kalepa Baybayan. Through a combination of context-specific video instruction by Mr. Baybayan and trial-and-error in sailing a virtual boat, visitors will progress through increasingly difficult simulations, and will build knowledge of traditional techniques.

In this mini-workshop, we’ll present the project, discuss our approach to embedding oral instruction into a virtual learning environment, and explore the strengths and limitations of Flash as a platform for 3-D interactive spaces.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - III [Close Up]

Keywords: 3-D interactive, oral tradition, simulation, navigation, flash