Published: Sep 27, 2023

unlocking Singapore's rich heritage: an immersive cultural experience

Re-imagining the storytelling experience of Singapore’s historical landmarks

NLB's vision goes beyond making information accessible - it's about bringing the richness of Singapore's cultural heritage right to the palm of your hand. In collaboration with the National Library Board (NLB) to support its LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025) Singapore Storytellers role, NCS leveraged AWS services to create an interactive AR web app prototype, enabling citizens to discover the stories behind iconic landmarks anytime from their devices. This prototype lays the foundation for a more connected and curious Singapore, unlocking the secrets of our shared heritage in thrilling new ways.​

The inspiration:

NLB’s LAB25 Singapore Storytellers efforts seek to nurture a stronger appreciation and understanding of the Singapore experience in four parts – gathering content about Singapore as a collector, leading digital preservation of this content as a keeper, enabling discovery and use of this by everyone as a connector, and inspiring generations of storytellers. NLB works closely with partners, such as NCS and AWS, to make Singapore content accessible and relevant, and weave it into other areas of learning. By enabling everyone to discover stories behind Singapore’s iconic landmarks, NLB hopes to inspire all to learn and appreciate the events that shape our national identity and collective experience.

The challenge:

The NCS Cloud Innovation for Communities (CIC) team was tasked with making Singapore's rich history and heritage more appealing across all generations through engaging experiences powered by cutting-edge technologies. The vision was to create a 3D construct that cuts across space, time, and narrative to make Singapore's history come alive in a fun and educational way for everyone.

  • Time: Showcase the evolution of a location over centuries using rich digital content including pictures, newspaper articles, and memories.
  • Space: Encourage users to explore other iconic landmarks within the vicinity and district.
  • Narrative: Structure the thematic context by layers.

The solution:

Without an existing product in the market to meet their requirements, the CIC Program created an innovative and immersive AR web app that delivers content on demand, anytime, anywhere, with just a mobile/tablet over the internet – no need to go through the hassle of downloading another app.

To gain deeper insights into what motivates Singaporeans to explore their history and culture, the CIC program employed a blend of the NCS DRIVE framework and the AWS Working Backwards methodology. These frameworks allowed us to discover and analyze user needs and goals and translate them into a clearly defined problem statement. By understanding the primary motivators for learning about our country's heritage, we were able to create a coherent end-user journey visualization and define the end vision for the solution. The entire process was executed with remarkable speed, moving from the initial concept to tangible results within the span of just one month.

Figure 1: Visual Storyboard of the Solution

By merging NLB's extensive resources on Singapore's history and culture with the domain expertise and technological capabilities of NCS and AWS, the team successfully crafted a proof of concept. This prototype not only offered a glimpse into Singapore's vibrant history but also revitalised the storytelling experience, creating a more engaging and immersive encounter for Singaporeans.

  1. Step into adventure: Leveraging advanced cognitive technology by AWS, instantly recognize landmarks scanned from your device’s camera. 
  2. Turning curiosity into knowledge: The web app pieces together rich digital content such as images, videos, and news articles about the landmark.
  3. Interact with History: A dedicated team of architects and developers in NCS, well-versed with AR technologies, helped craft an experience that allows users to immerse themselves and interact with history and culture by simply tapping on any curated content on the screen to find out more.

Figure 2: NLB AR Web Application Concept

The accolades:

The POC for the web app was successfully built and tested within a month, with a focus on 5 of Singapore's most iconic landmarks located in the civic district. The app was able to recognize all five landmarks and display curated information about them, showcasing the fundamental features of the website and its potential impact.

Figure 3: NLB LAB 25 Exhibition Panel

“The POC enabled NLB to test the concept of combining a geo-based platform and mixed reality to generate interest in Singapore heritage and history, where citizens can experience geo-based resources from our collections using the 3D framing of time, space, and narrative.” Soh Lin Li, Director of Partnerships, National Library Board.

The prototype of the immersive web app experience was showcased to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, and Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo. The project's use of technology was instrumental in enabling people to discover Singapore’s rich heritage and stories in an innovative way.

Figure 4: PM Lee Hsien Loong viewing the NLB Mobile Web Application POC Showcase in Parliament in March 2022 (Photo credit: Ministry of Communications and Information)

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