Tech Overlook

When dreams become (augmented) reality: preserving Australia’s Indigenous cultures

Chapter 4: Preserving hope

That evening after the conference, Dickens walked up to Jade.

“Hi! I’m Tianji Dickens, and I work with Microsoft. We would love to have your help in developing our Reconciliation Action Plan.”

Dickens also asked Jade if there were any Microsoft products that she’d be interested in working with.

“Here I was, ready to give up,” Jade remembered. “And along comes Tianji with energy and resources. I jumped at the chance and said, ‘HoloLens!’”

As they talked then and in the coming months (a lot—Jade said that the AI on her phone has labeled Dickens as family because of how often she calls her), a truly collaborative world began to open up for both of them. Jade agreed to be on Microsoft Australia’s Advisory Board and use her unique perspective to advocate for the preservation of culture through tech.

“Mik helped us see a bigger opportunity to support communities to use technology not only for cultural and language preservation but to provide skills to create their own economic opportunities,” said Dickens.

Dickens introduced Jade to Lawrence Crumpton, lead for Microsoft HoloLens in Asia.

Crumpton took Jade on a tour of Microsoft in Sydney and pointed out his favorite conference room, named the Darug room. Jade looked at that signage and told him, “If this works out, it’s going to be really good, because that’s the name of my people on your wall right there.”

group of people
As part of the Digital Custodians program, 30 Indigenous Australian women recently came to the Microsoft campus and learned about mixed reality, drones, and AI and used the technology to bring their own recorded voices and movements to life in Minecraft. The experience empowered the participants to view themselves as tech innovators, said Jade, pictured above in the back row, second from left.

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