First Contact

Using XR to support intercultural relationships

Empathic Computing Lab UoA: Mairi Gunn (NZ), Wendy Lawn (GB), Prasanth Sasikumar (IN), Huidong Bai (CN)

Project Description

Visitors to Ars Electronica Garden are invited to take a seat at a domestic table where, by wearing a head-mounted Augmented Reality display, they encounter a volumetric representation of an indigenous woman seated opposite, who speaks out of her culture that has refined collective endeavour and relational psychology. She addresses us directly to provoke a consideration of what might constitute solid foundations for a healthy, mutually beneficial and ongoing relationship between people from diverse cultural backgrounds. In a site that references the household and the commons, visitors are called on to question their relationships with people and place. Their responses can be recorded and relayed to the original subjects who are kept safe in the comfort of their own time and space.



Video Credits

First Contact – take 2:                   


-with permission from Big Belly Woman


-Hōkūle‘a by  Herb Kāne. Copyright Herbert K. Kane, LLC

-Māori gardens, by Rozel Pharazyn, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,, Licensed by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

-Abel Tasman and his family, from National Library of Australia. Attributed to Dutch painter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–c.1651)

-Captain James Cook.

-Samuel Marsden Meets Ngāpuhi chiefs.

-Distracting French sailors on the beach at Kororāreka, 1835-31. By Barthelemy Lauvergne. B-098-005. Alexander Turnbull Library.

-Death of Marion du Fresne at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand by Charles Merony, 1772. G-824-3. Alexander Turnbull Library.

-Pai Mārire Prisoners, 1865. Current rights
 Public Domain.

-The Tohu Maumahara (symbol of remembrance) at Rangiriri. Heritage New Zealand

Gunn, Mairi. First Contact – take 2. 2020; Auckland, Aotearoa: Bottomless Pit Productions. Volumetric AR/video

Contact: Mairi Gunn-    

Project Credits

This project is supported by the Empathic Computing Laboratory and the School of Design (University of Auckland).


Artist Bios

Mairi Gunn (NZ): Mairi Gunn, an award-winning documentary maker and video installation artist, uses immersive technologies including Extended Reality, to construct commons based on the ancient concept of shared space as a site for encouraging relationships between people from different cultural backgrounds. An XR experiment for her PhD research, Come to the Table!, was exhibited at SIGGRAPH Asia in 2019. 

Wendy Lawn (GB): Wendy Lawn is a Masters student at UWE, Bristol. She has 16 years’ experience in the edutech industry as a multimedia developer and technical instructional designer in the fields of technology, aviation and defence. She is interested in exploring empathy and the use of XR for social impact, for instance, to challenge preconceptions that drive negative traits such as xenophobia, racism and sexism.

Prasanth Sasikumar (IN): Prasanth Sasikumar is a PhD candidate at ECL, with a particular interest in multimodal input in remote collaboration and scene reconstruction. He has a keen interest in VR/AR applications and how they may assist industry to solve problems. He worked on wearable and non-wearable haptic devices, as part of NZ/Korea Human-Digital Content Interaction for their Immersive 4D Home Entertainment project. 

Huidong Bai (CN): Dr. Huidong Bai is a Research Fellow at the Empathic Computing Laboratory (ECL) University of Auckland. His areas of research include exploring remote collaborative Mixed Reality interfaces with spatial scene reconstruction and segmentation, as well as integrating empathic sensing and computing into the collaboration system to enhance shared communication cues. He is Technical Director at Envisage AR.