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AR You ready for National Day?

Parades are organised annually to commemorate Singapore’s independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Since then, the size and wow-factor of the parade have gone from strength to strength. This year, organisers collaborated with a local tech startup to develop an activity app named ‘NDP Jalan!’ (“Jalan” translates to “walk” in the Malay language).

Launched in the lead up to the festivities, the app is used to explore the city-state’s rich history through a series of interactive AR games. Much like the popular Pokémon Go game, NDP Jalan! seeks to take users around the island. Instead of catching furry avatars, citizens are led to sites of national importance, such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At these locations, users are treated to an augmented reality (AR) visual spectacular. Furthermore, if they correctly answer the questions posed along the trail, points are earned. These points in turn are used to redeem vouchers. Moreover, users stand a chance to be an audience member at the parade this year.

The means of fostering national pride and a sense of belonging have changed over the years. While banners and fireworks might have hit the mark in the past, citizens nowadays might need something more to connect with the nation. But connection alone isn’t enough. Honing a deep and meaningful relationship with the state is possible with a digital connection.

Lieutenant Colonel Mikail Kalimuddin, deputy chairman of the branding and publicity committee for NDP2018 said, “Minigames utilising AR technology ass a new dimension of excitement to the experience. It is a wonderful opportunity for families, students and anyone interested in Singapore to embark on a guided exploration of our country while having fun along the way.”

Since AR has the potential to alter one’s world view through the mixture of natural surroundings and digital media, the use of technology for nation building are vast. The AR feature in the app helps refresh national icons which might have become stale over the years. Citizens are provided with an opportunity to rediscover what the city has to offer.

It is the immersive nature of AR which allows citizens to experience their sense of belonging to Singapore in a phenomenal way. Citizens have an opportunity to interact with the city in a way which they have never been able to before. For starters, the graphics visualised through the AR viewer bring the city’s surroundings to life. Users’ experience of the space changes, and landmarks take on new meaning. Furthermore, pairing AR with the thrill of game successfully entices citizens to be more interested in what the city has to offer.

Most importantly, it is the technology in and of itself which motivates citizens to envision new dreams for a future-ready Singapore. Although the graphics one sees in AR are not real, lively imagination is almost turned into reality. As a nation-building tool, NDP Jalan! successfully calls are citizens to see what has yet to be seen, and hopefully to build upon the dream.

National Day Parades have not shied away from using technology. In fact, the parades are an important arena to showcase the technological prowess of Singapore. Over the years, parades have featured iconic multimedia shows which leverage on the latest technology. For example, the 2003 National Day Parade used Projecteur d’Images Géantes Informatisées (PiGi) projection technology, the same technology used at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games’ Opening and Closing ceremonies. Thus, technology has proved to be indispensable in Singapore’s nation-building process.

While the app might be a unique way to conduct national education, it is also an ingenious way of harnessing the power of technology to do the impossible.

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