by Toh Ee Ming
SINGAPORE, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A new augmented reality (AR) trail will give visitors a chance to rediscover major events, places and personalities in Singapore's history in a more immersive fashion, as part of the Singapore Bicentennial Commemoration.
Under this BALIKSG trail that was launched on Jan. 28 by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, visitors can download the free BALIKSG smartphone app and venture to eight different stops on a 2-km route along the Singapore River.
For instance, on this Singapore River route, visitors who scan the AR marker can listen to a conversation taking place between Sir Stamford Raffles and Maj. William Farquhar as they first set foot on Singapore's shores in 1819. Raffles was an officer of the British East India Company tasked with establishing a trading post in the region.
Visitors can also be transported back in time to witness how Singapore River served as an artery of international commerce, by experiencing a lively scene bustling with bumboats full of goods, while shophouses and godowns (warehouses) lined its banks.
They can also come face to face with early settlers who share their hopes, dreams and struggles as they recounted how they carved out a livelihood on this new land.
These include a Baweanese pondok chief (who took charge of the welfare of the residents living in communal shelters, as well as financial and religious matters), Chinese coolies (Chinese immigrants who worked in industries like construction, agriculture, shipping, mining and rickshaw-pulling) and Indian Chettiars (a subgroup of the Tamil community who originated from Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, India, who were Singapore's first financiers).
The trail also offers a window into significant historical events, like the signing of the 1819 Treaty between local chieftain Temenggong Abdul Rahman and Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor on the Padang as rain fell softly all around them, a move which allowed the British East India Company to set up a trading post in Singapore.
Visitors can also have fun with interactive elements, such as tapping on a virtual drone to launch it into flight or creating their own town plan for Singapore, just as how Lt. Jackson, the British East India Company engineer and land surveyor tasked with overseeing Singapore's development by Raffles, did so in 1822.
Nicholas Chen, digital manager at National Heritage Board who is part of the team behind BALIKSG, said the project gave them the chance to build on events in Singapore's history that people are familiar with and provide an "additional layer of storytelling."
Explaining why they depicted rainy weather during the 1819 Treaty signing on the AR display, he said, "Light rain actually fell on that day, which not many people are aware of, so we translated that into the virtual environment that users can explore."
"If statues could speak, what stories could they tell you, what changes have they seen? Technology has the power to make these stories come alive," he added.
More details about a second route along Fort Canning will be available in June. The BALIKSG trail is presented by the National Heritage Board and the National Parks Board of Singapore. Singapore has launched several heritage trails along its historical sites.
The Singapore Bicentennial marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the British in Singapore, a key turning point in its history.