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UH Mānoa Students Create Virtual Reality Hōkūle‘a Program

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Kilo Hoku team member and PhD candidate Dean Lodes demonstrates the virtual reality project. Photo courtesy of University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Four University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students have created a virtual navigation and sailing program modeled on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūle‘a canoe.

Project Kilo Hōkū is a virtual reality experience that puts users at the helm of sea navigation using traditional wayfinding techniques. Users can view the stars and constellations and steer their virtual canoe through open waters, all from the comfort of their home.

The team of students who developed the tool include Patrick Karjala, Dean Lodes, Kari Noe and Anna Sikkink. They tested the prototype simulation using an HTC Vive virtual reality system at UH Mānoa’s Laboratory for Advanced Visualization and Applications (LAVA).


The program is slated to debut for public experience at the Malama Honua Summit from June 18 to 20, 2017, at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

The Kilo Hōkū team wants to eventually release the program as a free educational tool to teach people about traditional wayfinding. If this happens, anyone with compatible virtual reality hardware will be able to download and use the program.

“I really want this to be like a very Hawaiian learning tool,” said UH Mānoa student and Kilo Hōkū team member Kari Noe. “And I hope that it will reach the people that for whatever reason cannot possibly see the Hōkūle‘a or Hikianalia or any of the sailing canoes.”


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