A Digital Wonderland of Innovation
By Billy Teo
A very impressed Danish Mustaffa was one happy visitor among many spotted at Singapore’s largest tech carnival. The immersive media fan said: “This exhibition is really a good platform to educate people about how virtual reality and augmented reality work, (and) enhance our current working environment.”
He was not the only excited fan of the inaugural SG:Digital Wonderland, a technology theme park come to life. The two-day event for all ages – held over the weekend of 18-19 May 2019 – drew over 23,000 visitors to the halls of Suntec Convention Centre level 4 to experience the latest and coolest in technology.
The successor to the beloved Tech Saturday (Upsized!) went bigger and better, with new innovations, gadgets and tech activities for youths and all in the family to Discover, Experience and Innovate (yes, that was the theme this year!).
One star attraction, the Drone Arcade, encouraged many visitors to put their flying skills to the test with a myriad of drone activities like controlling a drone with hand gestures using a special motion glove as part of the Drone Try-athlon, or by winning exciting prizes at the Arcade Claw Game – but with the traditional claw replaced by a flying Drone!
Virtual sports too got a boost from the long queues of fans, who enjoyed games of dodgeball with a special Augmented Reality (AR) element: Dragonball-styled anime laser blasts – seen through special goggles – that made for many exciting moments on the courts.
The use of animated elements superimposed on real world surroundings was a good testimony for the power of immersive media to spice up traditional sports.
Shooting fans also had their hands full with the Virtual Reality (VR) game located at the Digital Media Playground, titled Zombie Busters, that of course involved shooting zombies that appear all around you.
Notably, many children had a field day at SG:D Wonderland. IMDA guides also hosted close to 200 children from self-help groups such as CDAC, Mendaki, SINDA and special needs school APSN Tanglin. They were brought around on a Tech Excursion that covered different experiences at the event, complete with hands-on try-outs. Some even took part in the tech and media bootcamps!
Doing Good with Tech
Beyond the fun and games that gave many people an accessible experience and introduction to the world of cutting edge technologies, SG:D Wonderland also continued the hands-on tradition of running coding competitions with a Tech For Good theme this year.
Participants were challenged to come up with prototypes that could make a difference for people with special needs.
One highlight of the coding competitions on Day One: Senior Minister of State for Communication and Information, Dr Janil Puthcheary, presented the top prizes to the winners of Singapore’s First CodeQuest Challenge in Asia jointly organised by IMDA and Lockheed Martin. Code Quest is an annual computer programming competition where teams of 2-3 students – aged between 14 and 18 –work together to solve problem statements created by Lockheed Martin engineers and programmers.
IMDA also announced the award of a new project led by non-profit organisation, Engineering Good, that is supported under the initiative named Our Singapore Fund for Digital Readiness.
The second such organisation to be awarded, Engineering Good empowers disadvantaged communities by improving their quality of life through sustainable engineering solutions.
The project consists of two parts: The “We Hack Care!” Workshops and the ‘Tech for Good’ Festival, which seeks to engage over 20,000 participants and attendees to learn and build low-cost assistive devices to help the disadvantaged. Engineering Good also conducted the 'Hack-a-Toy!' workshop, where participants built Assistive Tech switches that could be paired with toys and switched on easily by children with special needs.
Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran, presented the Assistive Tech devices – created by the workshop participants – to Fei Yue Early Intervention Centre.
Gaming on an regional scale
Avid gamers certainly had the time of their lives at SG:D Wonderland, with the inaugural Mobile Legends Bang Bang: The Southeast Asia Clash of Champions 2019 drawing in fans of the mobile game from all around the region to fill the eSports Stadia to the brim.
Minister Iswaran officially launched the finals of the competition, which saw the team from Indonesia and the Singapore doing their best to claim the title.
Local favourites EVOs Esports SG team fended off strong opposition to finish as first runners-up to champions PSG.RRQ from Indonesia, thus raising hopes for a SEA Games medal finish in the SEA Games held in Philippines at the end of the year – as the team is Singapore’s e-sports nominee for the SEA Games!
The winning teams received their medals from Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, Ms Sim Ann.
Youth Innovators Scooting to Victory
Another crowd draw was the inaugural Youth Innovation Awards (YIA), which cast the net wide to discover 20 teams of innovative students from 10 tertiary institutions here and around the region – including Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Teams had a chance to showcase their prototypes and were kept busy answering queries from the curious visitors who got to cast their votes for their favourite prototypes in the Visitor’s Choice Award.
The overall winner was Team Whizz from Nanyang Technological University’s Renaissance Engineering Programme, with a new idea for a fleet of self-driving e-scooters that can be summoned with a mobile app in geofenced areas – and which will automatically drive themselves back to designated parking lots.
The Whizz Scooters prototype and app won the approval of the crowd, along with the Visitor’s Choice Award and the Best of Show Awards. Mr Melvin Foo, the bright spark behind the idea, said that he hoped it would solve the problem of street-litter caused by abandoned personal mobility devices today.
The team is gunning to run a test fleet by end of 2019, on campus.
Other winners include Team Robocoach from University of Hong Kong (Most Creative Idea), Team Scoltech from University of Malaya(Best Sustainable Idea), and Team Aqua Check from University of San Carlos (Best Citizen-Centric Award).
Opening eyes to innovation
Aside from these star highlights, SG:D Wonderland was packed full of attractions that enthralled visitors, such as the Cyber Security Investigation (CSI) Experience presented by IMDA’s Lab on Wheels team – where visitors took part in a series of challenge-based activities to see the potential damage of a city when it is under cyber-attack and understand the importance of enhancing personal digital defences.
One mother, who gave her name as Mrs Yap, checked out the CSI Experience with her two sons. She said: “This is educational yet fun! A great place for the kids to learn. Definitely recommended for all families to go (to the event) and experience.”
Given the popularity of AI today, it was no surprise that the suite of AI technologies on showcase to help prepare citizens to be digitally ready in a Smart Nation – was a crowd favourite, as was the AI Smart Home Studio powered by Amazon Web Services, where visitors could try out home automation.
Another impressed visitor, Mr Tan Chor Nguan, explained why he took his time to explore the exhibits and attractions: “It is good for us to open our eyes and see new innovative products.”
Whether you were a tech fan or a fun seeker, SG:Digital Wonderland was indeed a tech carnival not to be missed! To see more of the wonders of SG:D Wonderland offered, do visit IMDA's Facebook page.