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Islands of language enter virtual reality

Islands of language enter virtual reality

Image: The PARADISEC virtual reality system on display at University of Melbourne.

Linguists from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language are breathing new life into endangered languages with virtual reality (VR) technology.

ARC Future Fellow, Dr Nick Thieberger, and his research team have developed a VR fly-through of the South Pacific Islands including Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, home to an astonishing 130 and 900 languages respectively.

The VR display uses audio and other information stored in the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Culture (PARADISEC)—a collaboration between The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney set up to collect, digitise and catalogue precious audio-visual recordings from the Asia/Pacific where hundreds of languages are endangered.

Dr Thieberger and his team are passionate about the use of VR for the preservation of language.

“Languages with a long connection to the local environment like those in Australia and the Asia Pacific display a special knowledge of how interconnected the world is, and having that knowledge was crucial for these communities being able to survive. If we lose these languages we all lose other ways of understanding our world,” said Dr Thieberger.

Media issued by The University of Melbourne.

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