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Generous govt funding for projects to bridge 'physical and virtual' worlds

March 26, 2008 | Chris Payatagool
fortcanning.jpgBy Chua Hian Hou

ON your next field trip to Fort Canning, you may get to 'experience' the heritage site as it was in the 14th century, and interact with holographic 'people' to see how they live.

A combination of virtual reality and global positioning systems will inject life into the site, as you traipse up and down the site.

This is just one of the ideas the Government is exploring as part of an ambitious programme to develop technologies and services to link the virtual world with the physical one.

Last week, the Government's Interactive Digital Media R&D Programme Office, which includes agencies like the Media Development Authority (MDA) and the Economic Development Board, asked the private sector to submit ideas for 'services, tools, technologies and applications' that make use of this 'nexus between physical and virtual worlds'. It will be hosting a networking session on Wednesday evening to brief companies keen to find out more about its plans.

This nexus or 'co-existent spaces' (Co-Space) between the two worlds, said MDA deputy chief executive officer Michael Yap, is the future of the Internet.

Currently the 'Internet is about linking documents', but going forward the Internet will be about 'linking spaces', he said.

While there are not many commercial possibilities in this area now, he said, it was important that Singapore get a head-start in this promising new area, as pioneers stand to reap huge advantages when this area does take off.

Digital media is expected to contribute some $10 billion to the economy and create 10,000 jobs by 2015.

To encourage companies to participate, the Government will offer unprecedented levels of co-funding, especially for products and services considered necessary 'building blocks' for other players to use to create new services.

These building blocks could include, say, a company making a 3D building and terrain map of Singapore, or one putting up a network of sensors across the island to collect data or pinpoint the location of individuals, since such services can be re-used by another company.

In a typical private-public collaboration, the Government sponsors between 30 and 50 per cent of the project cost, but The Straits Times understands that the MDA is willing to go over the 50 per cent mark for Co-Space projects.

Mr Yap confirmed that the Government will be 'more generous' but declined to elaborate just how generous it would be.

The funds will be drawn from the National Research Foundation's $500 million fund set aside for innovative research and development initiatives.

The Government has also signed up 11 possible public agency customers for co-space projects.

They include the Defence Science and Technology Agency, which is looking for 3D models of urban locations here so that it can run virtual military exercises; and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which wants to create a model of a futuristic Singapore complete with upcoming projects like the integrated resorts, waterway projects and future housing estates for citizens to explore - and give their feedback on.

At least seven private companies are also working on creating 'building blocks', from one working on a powerful software tool that can generate 3D models quickly, to one making a building and terrain map of Singapore.

For information on the Co-Space call for proposal, visit

[via The Strait Times]

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