ITE's new NE Hub speaks for itself

Guests trying out virtual reality goggles at the newly opened NE Hub at ITE College Central yesterday. The college has become the first institute of higher learning to offer all of NHB's heritage education programmes.
Guests trying out virtual reality goggles at the newly opened NE Hub at ITE College Central yesterday. The college has become the first institute of higher learning to offer all of NHB's heritage education programmes. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

A heritage gallery at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central is getting an American voice.

Visitors to the college's National Education (NE) and heritage learning gallery, which was reopened yesterday as the NE Hub, will get to pose questions to a virtual personal assistant (PA), as part of the gallery's enhanced user experience.

The PA is a modified version of Alexa, e-retail company Amazon's answer to Apple's Siri, the voice-activated PA which relies on artificial intelligence.

ITE lecturer Azlan Othman, 38, told The Straits Times: "We taught (Alexa) certain skills pertaining to National Education so that she would be able to interact with visitors and they can ask her any question pertaining to Singapore."

Visitors talk through a small speaker-cum-microphone and the ITE version of Alexa looks online for an answer and replies in an American accent.

Mr Azlan was part of a team of lecturers who lent their technical expertise in designing installations for the hub.

ITE student councillor Ananda Low, 17, said: "They have incorporated a lot of technology (into the Hub), something of interest to me as a student of infocomm technology."

With the hub's opening, ITE College Central has become the first institute of higher learning to offer all of National Heritage Board's signature heritage education programmes, which include adopting a heritage trail and creating a heritage appreciation elective module.

In the most recent tour last month, lecturers took 400 ITE students on the trail adopted by ITE College Central which runs through the Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood, encompassing Lower Peirce Reservoir and the three temples at the Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'ITE's new NE Hub speaks for itself'. Print Edition | Subscribe