Go Back to Singapore’s Past through Augmented Reality (AR) App
Children these days know more about coding than Singapore’s history. Instead of solely relying on subjects like Social Studies and History to teach them about Singapore’s heritage, we feel more can be done to help our youths appreciate Singapore’s past.
One clever approach is to integrate kids’ natural affinity with technology with Singapore’s short but rich history. Where we can step into the past and watch History come alive in a fun, techie way, together as a family (yes, Mommies, Daddies, Grandparents included!). Now, it has been made possible with the help of AR (Augmented Reality) in a brand new free app called BALIKSG.
What is the BALIKSG App?
BALIKSG is a free app presented by National Heritage Board and National Parks Board in January this year to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial. The app allows users to experience snippets of Singapore’s history by integrating texts, graphics, videos and AR that will transport us to Singapore’s past dating back to the 14th century. All we need is to download the app from App Store or Google Play onto our mobile phones and we’re ready to explore.
With the BALIKSG app, we just have to scan the special codes found at various pit-stops along the heritage trail to have an immersive AR experience to revisit historical events (such as the 1819 Singapore treaty which established Singapore as a British trading post) and meet historical characters (like Sir Stamford Raffles, William Farquhar etc.). The app is essentially a self-guided trail. Once downloaded, we can use the app at any time of the day, at any pace suitable for our families.
Down the Singapore River!
Currently, the first trail that was launched is the Singapore River trail. Rightly so, since the river has always played a pivotal role in our country’s history and economic development.
During our media preview, a guide commissioned by the National Heritage Board familiarized us to the use of the app as well as to enthuse the children with mini games.
All the parents and children were kept intrigued by the app and the stories narrated by the AR virtual characters. We stopped by places that we would have normally just walked on by without casting a second glance, much less know their significances. But after today, we will never look at places such as Boat Quay, Elgin Bridge, Empress Lawn and even the National Gallery the same way again. In fact, the kids made us promise to bring them back on the trail after the mid year exams.
BALIKSG is a very user-centric app with simple, intuitive interface; even our 5-year old got toggle with it almost instantly.
The app provides an immersive experience of the historical sights situated along the Singapore River. It leverages on the latest AR technology to allow us to encounter historical characters, discover stories and places, and revisit significant events in Singapore’s history (such as Raffles’ landing).
We like it that users can use the app at any time of the day (don’t have to wait to join a specific organised tour group), we can enjoy the trail at own own pace and it’s also enriching enough even for adults.
For younger kids, empower them with a portable digital camera and you’ll find them happily snapping away along the trail. As a family, we are always on the lookout for fun, novel, and educational ways to build memories so this app scores many brownie points in our list.
In summary, why go on the BALIKSG Trail:
• FREE: It’s completely free, and does not contain any in-app purchases.
• ACCESSIBLE: The trails are centrally located and conveniently accessible by public transportation.
• HISTORICALLY ACCURATE: Storytelling is based on extensive research and endorsed by the National Heritage Board and National Parks Board.
• EDUCATIONAL: Watch scenes from history textbooks come to life at the very location history was imprinted.
• INTERACTIVE: Using the latest in AR technology, the app reproduces a creative interpretation of actual historical events at each touchpoint of the heritage trail, for a thoroughly immersive experience.
• CLOCK YOUR DAILY STEPS: Put on your walking shoes and go on a trail back in time!
• MEMENTO: Collect all the jigsaw pieces at each AR discovery point as a memento.
The potential for this app is immense! It gives ourselves, our kids (and our tourists) a better appreciation of the racial and cultural mix that is unique to this little red dot, hence the need for us to preserve it!
Go download the BALIKSG app and go on your own self-guided walkabout with the app during one of the long weekends or in the upcoming school holidays. We started at the Sir Stamford Raffles Statue (near Asian Civilization Museum), crossed Cavanagh Bridge and ended in front of the UOB Plaza. In total, there are 8 pit-stops where users can enjoy the immersive AR experience along the Singapore River.
Length of Singapore River Trail: 2km Duration: 1-1.5 hr Steps: 3,000 (very easy, light walking). Trail is also stroller and wheelchair friendly but do wear good walking shoes and bring along drinking water and umbrella as weather can be humid and wet.
We were told there is a 2nd Heritage Trail that will be launched in the app later this year that will enthral us with stories from Fort Canning Hill. Stay tuned!