'Talk' to Merlion, hydrants during Festival of Tech

If you have ever wanted to say hi to the Merlion, and have it say hi back, you will get a chance to do so in two weeks.

People will be able to "talk" to the Merlion, and other objects such as lamp posts and fire hydrants, during the Festival of Tech, which will run from Oct 10 to 18.

They can send an SMS message to the street object by keying in the object's identification number in their text message. They will get an SMS reply and the object may even have a few questions of its own.

The interactive display is one of the exhibitions at the festival, which aims to highlight how art, design and technology can come together as Singapore gears up to become a Smart Nation.

Organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which is partnering British digital innovation and culture firm FutureEverything, the festival will feature design and technology workshops and a closing convention about the future of Singapore as a Smart Nation.

It will kick off on Oct 10 with a retrospective look at Singapore's information and communications technology (ICT) history. The online project, 35 Years of Infocomm Development in Singapore, was done with The Straits Times, and traces Singapore's ICT development since 1981, when the National Computer Board was first set up.

Another exhibition during the festival highlighting the mash-up of art and technology is the Chronarium, a sleeping pod which will be on display outside The Cathay building in Handy Road.

It features 12 hammocks where people can drop in for a quick 15-minute snooze. These closed sleeping pods will emit ambient noise and soft coloured light that coax the mind into a relaxed, restful state for a quick pick-me-up. It will run until Oct 15.

Local professionals from the art, design and technology communities can apply for the Signals of Tomorrow Innovation Lab, a five-day workshop where they can design a prototype that marries art and technology. About 30 participants are expected and their efforts will be displayed at a public showcase in the ArtScience Museum on Oct 17 and 18. One winning prototype will receive a $40,000 development fund from IDA and FutureEverything to refine the project.

"The next chapter of the Singapore Story is the journey to become a Smart Nation," said IDA executive deputy chairman Steve Leonard. "Through the Festival of Tech, we want to encourage creativity and imagination, which are vital to innovation in a Smart Nation."

He added: "Creativity is vital in this journey, and there is a role for everyone. We want to encourage not just the tech professionals, but artists, designers, students, basically everyone, to experiment and prototype," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline ''Talk' to Merlion, hydrants during Festival of Tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe