Digital characters help engage tourists

ST VIDEO: NATHASHA LEE
Australian tourist Vicki Godden, 55, taking a selfie at Ah Chye's installation yesterday.
Australian tourist Vicki Godden, 55, taking a selfie at Ah Chye's installation yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Interactive screens in STB pilot to run in Chinatown for up to 6 months from today

At the Pagoda Street exit of the Chinatown MRT station, Ah Chye the Rickshaw Puller invites visitors to explore the "hidden gems" of Chinatown.

Based on visitors' interests, he will even dispense a map pointing to a specific landmark, and then shout at them to wait and take a selfie with him.

Ah Chye together with Ah Hock the Street Hawker and Ah Gek the Samsui Woman are characters embedded within interactive digital screens, each with their own unique backdrops, in three parts of Chinatown. They make up Chinatown Comes Alive, a pilot initiative by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched yesterday.

The iconic characters, played by actors who were filmed earlier, regale visitors with nuggets of historical information. The characters are meant to engage visitors by blending digital media and storytelling, so they can learn more about Chinatown's rich culture, history and heritage.

At the installations, which use sensors to monitor nearby visitors, each character will beckon them to come closer, and ask them if they have visited Chinatown before. Visitors will be prompted to answer two more questions - to determine their interests - and the digital character will then prompt them to choose between two destinations.

The choices offered to visitors come from 15 STB selected destinations, ranging from traditional businesses such as HK Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles to modern outlets like Lepark, a tapas bar and restaurant. STB chose these lesser- known landmarks to provide visitors with unique and interesting experiences.

The choices offered to visitors come from 15 STB selected destinations, ranging from traditional businesses such as HK Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles to modern outlets like Lepark, a tapas bar and restaurant. STB chose these lesser- known landmarks to provide visitors with unique and interesting experiences.

Visitors also stand a chance to receive a special map at random that lets them enjoy discounts or giveaways at some of the locations.

The pilot initiative, which includes two other installations at the Chinatown Food Street and the entrance to the Chinatown Visitor Centre, will run for up to six months from today.

The STB will then examine its success based on the number of interactions and time spent at each installation.

Mr Terrence Voon, director of Digital and Content at STB, said that "if it (the activation) is successful, we might consider setting it up in other precincts" outside of Chinatown.

"Our objective is to make sure that visitors do find this interesting, and visitors actually ... go on to explore more of Singapore and the area that they're in," he added.

Thai tourist Napaporn Worjesdarom, 37, stumbled across Ah Chye's installation yesterday and was amused by his interaction with her. Though she looked confused at first, a slow smile crept onto her face as she listened to Ah Chye's jovial conversation.

The freelance bank worker, who initially planned to only visit and pray at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, added HK Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles to her itinerary.

She also thought the map from the installation was a good idea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Digital characters help engage tourists'. Print Edition | Subscribe