Singapore attracts millions of tourists every year, but lags far behind competing Asian destinations like Malaysia, Indonesia or Japan. Part of the problem is the limited space available to build tourist attractions – the whole country is on an island. The Singapore Tourism Board has therefore turned to creating digital experiences to attract customers and their wallets.
The council’s technical director, Wong Ming Fai, said during a developer conference Tuesday that the abundant availability of no-code deployment tools enabled it to rapidly develop extended reality tourism projects.
“We’re seeing consumer apps like Google, Google Maps making that experience available in their app natively,” Wong said, adding, “Once AR glasses become mainstream, I think then we’ll see those experiences become much more widely used.”
One project discussed by the board and available since May is a partnership with Google that projects cartoon musicians onto Singapore’s Victoria Concert Hall when viewed via phone.
The main challenge faced when projecting cartoons onto a building was placing the user precisely so that the musicians didn’t appear to be standing in the air — a task that GPS alone couldn’t solve, Wong said.
The environment must be scanned for visual cues in order for the map to use Google’s Visual Positioning System (VPS) API. This analysis is then combined with Google’s Street View database.
Wong admits that for the Singapore government to create a facility like this, it has a lot more work to do – environmental scanning, as well as data and analytics.
But is the effort worth it? Can visuals on a phone [VIDEO] really attract crowds from abroad?
Not likely. But the tourist board has sweetened the deal with an immersive video game-like recreation of a fictional World War II battle at a historic location: the site of the disused artillery battery of Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island. Although it is unlikely to bring people to the shores of Singapore, it could improve their experience when they visit.
The 5G-enabled XR Experience – called The Battle of Fort Siloso – is a joint venture between the tourism board, the telecommunications company Singtel, the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and the Singapore Government Technology Agency (GovTech). He is currently on trial.
During gameplay, the user can walk around in any direction, backtrack or revisit locations by shooting planes with their gaze and completing missions.
“Where the AI comes in is really to enable that, because we have to program the behavior of non-player characters (NPCs), which are soldiers as well as planes, so that they don’t follow a fixed script and are able to respond to how the user walks around,” Wong said.
Creating the environment required the use of reinforcement machine learning, which the team achieved using the open-source ML agent platform in the Unit engine.
“This platform allows us to define objects, define what the object can do, define where the rewards, objectives and penalties are, and then allow you to run many parallel races together. You just train the system and finally you can deploy the model train,” Wong explained.
The CTO said Unity made it possible to accomplish the task without having to involve their data science team.
“We really want to try to partner up as much as possible because resources are so precious,” Wong said.
The tourism board hopes industry players can be inspired and experience more for themselves. The organization made a library of tools available, just in case. ®