Singapore Bicentennial: Take a walk down AR trail to experience Singapore's past

SPH Brightcove Video
Relive scenes from the 1800s in the National Heritage Board's new augmented reality app, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to commemorate Singapore's bicentennial milestone.
The free BalikSG app was announced on Monday (Jan 28) as part of the bicentenary's official launch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Taking a walk along the Singapore River now comes with a new experience.

A new augmented reality (AR) trail by the National Heritage Board (NHB) has been designed to bring Singapore's history to life.

For instance, scanning an AR marker outside the UOB Plaza at Boat Quay via the new BalikSG app will reveal a scene from the 1880s.

Users will get to see shophouses and godowns (warehouses) lining the river, bumboats bobbing in the water as well as coolies straining to heave sacks of goods near the busy promenade.

The free BalikSG app was announced on Monday (Jan 28) as part of the bicentenary's official launch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The app's Singapore River trail, which covers Singapore's colonial past, has eight stops which can be accessed in any order.

It spans about 2km and takes about two hours to complete.

The NHB's strategic communications and digital manager, Mr Nicholas Chen, said they tapped the collections in the National Museum and National Archives to put together the app, which took about a year to complete.

The app also comes with write-ups and old photos.

He said: "We hope to present heritage and history in a fun and interactive manner so as to reach out to people who don't usually visit a museum."

At three stops, app users will be able to get acquainted with representatives from communities such as the coolies, Chettiars - Singapore's first financiers - and a pondok chief, who took care of the welfare of Baweanese immigrants who lived in communal shelters called pondok.

Actors in era-appropriate garments retell these community stories.

Another highlight of the trail is the stop at the Raffles Landing Site near the Asian Civilisations Museum. Users will get to experience for themselves an illustrated animation of a tete-a-tete between Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar after they landed in Singapore on Jan 29, 1819.

Near the Padang, users will get to see a panoramic re-enactment of the signing of the 1819 treaty - which allowed the British East India Company to set up a trading post in Singapore - with Temenggong Abdul Rahman and Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor.

The illustrated animation depicts a rainy day at the Padang, as it was documented some years later in the Hikayat Abdullah, an autobiography of Munsyi Abdullah, who was Raffles' scribe.

The book noted that "by God's power there fell a light rain", which the Malays reckoned "is a sign of blessings to come".

The National Parks Board, which was also involved in the development of the app, will launch an AR trail around Fort Canning in June.

Read PM Lee's full speech here.

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