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Singapore’s interactive digital media sector poised for breakthrough

Dated: 4 September 2008

Projects selected by international experts for funding unleash potential of real and virtual worlds

Imagine the convenience of practising yoga at home by wearing a special suit that tells you what positions to adopt through sensors in realtime and without the need of a physical coach. 

This, along with 12 other proposals, were selected for S$18m in funding by a panel of international experts following a call for proposals by the multi-agency Interactive Digital Media Research and Development Programme Office (IDMPO) hosted by the Media Development Authority (MDA). These projects are expected to involve 120 local researchers with a range of international collaborators from six countries - USA, UK, Australia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong - as well as deliver some 25 patents and 200 research papers.

Focusing on the research theme of Co-space, the proposals, selected out of 85 submissions, aim to make the virtual world more real by injecting human sensory and intelligence into the virtual through the use of sensors and haptic devices which mimic the sense of touch, and possibly even emotion.

The International Review Panel (IRP), which advises the IDMPO, met from 1 to 4 September. Apart from giving their recommendations on the projects, the IRP also felt that the progress made in the last year has been substantial and exciting. The Co-Chairman of the IRP, Dr John Seely Brown, a Visiting Scholar and Advisory to the Provost at the University of Southern California (USC) said: “Many of the start-ups and young entrepreneurs have the potential to become global players. I am stunned by the young entrepreneurs in Singapore. I felt that I could have the exact same conversation with them as with their counterparts in Silicon Valley. I am amazed that Singapore could make that transition within a couple of years.

The 13 projects cover five critical areas: Injecting more intelligence into the virtual world through, for example, the development of autonomous and context-aware avatars;greater integration between real and virtual worlds by inventing new form of interfaces that make “technologies disappear”;projects that mimic and simulate the sense of touch and other human emotions to enrich the virtual experience;addressing privacy and trust challenges in virtual worlds as it becomes increasingly fused with our daily life;and, enabling projects that are able to better manipulate and organise information from a myriad of new data types that capture senses and rich media.

Singapore’s efforts to spark off growth in the IDM sector have led to an overarching strategy to bring about a sustainable ecosystem. This involves synergising four key groups of stakeholders: Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), industry players, start-ups and individuals, and schools. To-date, most Singapore IHLs have established multidiscipline IDM research and innovation centres. This is complemented by the presence of a growing network of the world’s leading institutions which have set up joint R&D centers in Singapore. They include GAMBIT Game Lab by Singapore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the China-Singapore Institute of Digital
Media by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the recent Keio-NUS Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments (CUTE) Centre by Keio University.

Other growth milestones include the embracing of new media by local flagship media companies, some of which have invested heavily in IDM R&D with the support from IDMPO to create innovative services and IDM research labs such as Singapore Press Holding’s recent RazorTV and ST Electronics’ Centre in Interactive Media (CiM). IDMPO has also unleashed grassroots innovation in IDM and some young start-ups have successfully attracted funding from private investors to take their ideas to the next stage. This year, IDMPO is pushing for IDM to be embraced within key sectors. To-date, some 11 key sectors such as healthcare, sports, transport, design and leisure are involved in leveraging on IDM to bring about innovative and exciting services. The
IRP was excited about this strategic thrust and urged the IDMPO to deepen the engagement, by co-creating compelling breakthroughs for the global market.

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Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA)
The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) was formed on 1 January 2003 to champion Media 21, a blueprint to transform Singapore into a global media city. Media 21 seeks to create a vibrant media environment by establishing Singapore as a media exchange, exporting Made-by-Singapore content, internationalising local media companies, nurturing local media talent and developing digital media. More information on MDA can be found on

Interactive &Digital Media (IDM) Sector
The development of the IDM sector requires the collaboration of a diverse range of public sector agencies, educational institutions, industry players and other stakeholders. To achieve this, the National Research Foundation has allocated $500 million over the next five years from 2006 to fund the development of a strategic IDM research programme and the set-up of a multi-agency IDM R&D Programme Office within the Media Development Authority of Singapore to oversee R&D initiatives in the IDM space. This multiagency team is accountable to the IDM Executive Committee and coordinates a cross-disciplinary effort to deepen Singapore’s research capacity in IDM. Please visit for more information.

About Co-space
Co-space which has been identified as the next generation of the web where physical places coexist with dynamic, real-time virtual environments to provide users with the ability to process and manipulate information seamlessly between both the physical and virtual space. The concept underscores Singapore's aspiration to be a player in the next generation Internet, where the web will become even more pervasive, immersive, and integrated into our daily lives.

About International Review Panel (IRP)
In 2007, five luminaries in the field of new media were appointed to the IRP for the IDM R&D Programme Office hosted by the Media Development Authority. Chartered to review the overall direction of IDM R&D, the IRP advises the IDMPO on strategic areas of IDM research and development as well as environment and culture of a vibrant IDM R&D community in Singapore. In addition, the IRP will select and recommend research projects submitted by the local Institutes of Higher Learning through an annual call for proposals.