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Barely a month after Raffles had a few choice friends join him by the Singapore River, the Singapore Bicentennial Office has commissioned new additions to his posse—augmented reality (AR) ones, including an AR version of himself.

As part of the Singapore Bicentennial Commemoration, a new AR trail BalikSG has been launched, jointly presented by the National Heritage Board and the National Parks Board. All you need is a smartphone; once you’ve downloaded the app, you’re free to explore AR manifestations of Singapore’s history at eight unique stops around the Singapore River district. Scan your phone at the AR image markers at each of these sites, and the characters will pop up on the screen to start telling their stories.


A cheeky Chettiar from Singapore's First Financiers

Aiming to marry past and present, BalikSG picked key events and people in the country’s long history to turn into interactive stories at site-specific locations. At the now contentious Raffles Landing Site, Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar await you amiably to explain their plans for our glorious island; swivel your phone around the area and you’ll also spot a ship on the River (likely from the British East India Company), and some natives milling begrudgingly about.


A coolie from The Men Who Built This CIty at Empress Lawn

Walk around Empress Lawn, and you’ll get to meet early settlers (played by real actors) like a rickshaw-pulling coolie and a member of The Chettiers, a subgroup of the Tamil community from Tamil Nadu, India, who became Singapore’s first financiers. At Elgin Bridge, get a bird’s eye view of the Elgin Bridge, Cavenagh Bridge and Anderson Bridge via actual drone footage, to learn more about the vital people and goods that crossed them back in the day. You can also glimpse the River in the 1880s over at Boat Quay (in front of UOB Plaza), and step through a portal in front of the National Gallery Singapore to witness the signing of the 1819 treaty. Fun times.

If this tickles your fancy, a second, longer trail around the Fort Canning area will be launched later in the year on Jun 1. Encircling what was formerly Government Hill, it will offer visitors a peek into the former residence of Sir Stamford Raffles and fellow governors in the 19th Century—through the eyes of Raffles, Farquhar and other early British explorers.


BalikSG is now available for free on the App Store and Google Play store. More information here.