Woolaroo – Promoting language preservation & education with ML

Explore 10 languages from around the world by taking pictures of your surroundings and listening to the pronunciations from local speakers.

Accessibility text: gif animation of different hands holding a  phone with a Woolaroo translation on the screen

Today, I’m proud to announce the launch of Woolaroo, a new Google Arts & Culture experiment using the Cloud Vision API. 

Woolaroo is open source and allows language communities to preserve and expand their language word lists and add audio recordings to help with pronunciation. The technology was first innovated in the development of Spark’s breakthrough Kupu App in New Zealand in 2018, to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori (the Māori language). Now, with the launch of Woolaroo, 10 global languages are supported including Louisiana Creole, Calabrian Greek, te reo Māori, Tamazight, Sicilian, Yang Zhuang, Rapa Nui, Yiddish and Yugambeh.

When Dr Tania Ka’ai, Chair of Te Murumāra Foundation was invited to work on this project she first wanted to meet with the Yugambeh people of Australia. “I saw it as important to ensure that we recognise proper cultural protocols even when living in a digital world. As namesakes of Woolaroo, we were being invited into their space and so meeting, even virtually, was the right place to begin.” 

The Te Murumāra Foundation was integral to the development of the Kupu App, through the sharing of the Te Aka Māori Dictionary to power the translations and guiding the translation process and campaign alongside Spark NZ. Dr Tania Ka’ai, Te Murumāra Foundation's Chair was also closely involved in the development of Woolaroo and said, “This work is incredibly important for showcasing how digital platforms can make Te Reo and other endangered languages more accessible and interactive for both Kiwis and people all over the world. At Te Murumāra Foundation we’re continuing to evolve and develop in our commitment to sharing te reo Māori resources, and this next evolution of the technology and scale of reach is truly exciting for indigenous languages all over the world.”

Woolaroo was co-developed by RUSH, one of New Zealand’s most innovative digital product studios. RUSH took on the project to help use innovative technologies like Machine Learning, Machine Vision and the power of the Cloud in a project that aligned so closely to its purpose statement; to design technology to better serve humankind.

RUSH founder, Danushka Abeysuriya says: “A more globalised and fast-evolving technological world has played a role in shrinking use of native languages. Given the challenges the world faces ahead in climate change, social equity, sustainability and co-operation - there are powerful lessons to be learned from indigenous cultures and the embodied values these languages and cultures have to offer. This is why we are proud to apply technology to this task. It’s in everyone’s best interest to not let these languages fade away.”

All of the languages on Woolaroo are a crucial aspect of a community’s cultural heritage. If you, your grandparents or people in your community speak any of these languages – even if just a few words –  by giving it a go, you can help to expand the growing coverage of Woolaroo.

We hope people will enjoy learning and interacting with a language that is new to you and in turn learn about the diversity of communities and heritage we all share together. 

Explore more on the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS and Android and at g.co/woolaroo.

Post content