Fingerprint scanners, geospatial tech: What I learnt at the Smart Nation PlayScape exhibition
The exhibition holds eight interactive zones that use games to teach visitors about technologies that help Singapore become a smart nation.
As part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, Science Centre Singapore’s permanent exhibition Smart Nation Playscape offers visitors a look into emerging technologies, and how they “power our world of today and tomorrow”.
The exhibition hosts a total of eight interactive zones that showcases areas like Artificial Intelligence, user experience design, biometrics, robotics, sensors, blockchains, virtual reality and geospatial technology.
After spending some time interacting with each zone, here are five things I learnt:
1. While fingerprints are unique to each person, most share similar patterns
It is common knowledge that no two fingerprints are the same, but did you know that some of them share similar patterns?
At the Biometrics & Cybersecurity Zone, visitors can try out different mini-games involving biometric technology that is most commonly used in face recognition for identification purposes.
Of the few mini-games in this zone, one called Know Your Fingerprint stood out the most to me. Visitors can get their fingerprints scanned and receive a quick analysis over which patterns can be spotted, and how many of the world’s population have that particular fingerprint pattern as well.
A good majority of people have loop patterns on their fingerprints, which is one of the three most common fingerprint patterns alongside the arch and the whorl.
These insights were gathered using biometric technology, which helps devices like our smart devices recognise our features ranging from facial structure, voice and down to our one-of-a-kind fingerprints.
Such technology is not only convenient for when we are unlocking our devices, but key to protecting our personal data as well, with fingerprint scanners even being used for our passports for security purposes.
2. Geospatial technology is crucial in building Singapore’s infrastructure and layout
So what makes a city good to live in? How do city planners decide what’s good for a community and its residents when planning what and where to construct certain buildings?
PlayScape’s Geospatial Zone breaks it down for visitors using a minigame called Build Your City, where they are given two minutes to shift different facilities around while trying to maintain a high community satisfaction score.
The minigame’s community satisfaction score is calculated off a community’s employment, education, mobility and wellbeing rates. Should the community satisfaction score be low, residents living in those premises would have a lower quality of life.
Similarly, Singapore’s city planners use geospatial technology to take into consideration such criteria and better plan out the city’s infrastructure and urban living.
Geospatial technology is implemented in not only urban planning, but also in things like GPS and satellites for tracking and visualisation purposes.
This helps map out how the country’s limited land and resources can be used efficiently and benefit communities in the long run, be it through expanding Singapore’s public transport systems to increase ease of travel or constructing more housing estates for the country’s growing population.
3. User Experience design is key towards better inclusivity when browsing online
User experience (UX) has different factors, ranging from the number of clicks to get to a particular point in a website, to a webpage’s loading speed.
UX design uses technology to not only optimise that, but also to make sites more accessible and user-friendly to not just the average online user.
PlayScape’s UX minigames showcase how seemingly simple things like colour contrast and font size makes a big difference to people with colorblindness, myopia or “fat finger syndrome”
4. A robot can probably solve a Rubik’s cube faster than you
Have you ever wondered how fast a robot can analyse and solve a Rubik’s cube? When I put it to the test, it took a total of four minutes for it to unscramble the toy. On the other (human) hand, I have never managed to solve a single one in my life.
This can be witnessed at PlayScape’s Robotics Zone, where visitors can scramble a Rubik’s cube, place it into a machine and watch a robot solve the puzzle with the help of codes installed into its system.
The robot is programmed to scan the scrambled cube and figure out the most suitable movesets to use and solve it as fast and effectively as possible.
For my case, it took two minutes to analyse the cube, and another two to unscramble it.
With the use of robots and machine programming, robotics have also helped out people further in different industries such as clearing minefields and deepwater exploration. They can be programmes to access areas that humans are unable to reach or complete as quickly as with robots.
5. While technology has its perks, it’s still susceptible to errors
After touring all eight zones, I learnt that technology has the ability to help empower Singapore in its plans to become a smart nation. It has been implemented into many of the country’s sectors such as cybersecurity, design and urban planning, and has proven its potential to continue doing so in future developments.
While it does have its perks, technology is still subject to errors and malfunctions. Things like Artificial Intelligence and sensors cannot always accurately detect subjects, and relies on human programming to work as efficiently as it does.
PlayScape at Science Centre Singapore is an attempt to “make the concepts in technology more relatable and accessible”. It helps visitors understand the science behind such technologies, while also letting them know that there is still room for improvement.
According to Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity Josphine Teo, there are future plans for some exhibits and zones to “travel to the community” in a collaborative initiative with the National Library Board.
Called PlayScape Lite, it will allow more people across Singapore to access the informative exhibits and the science behind certain technologies.
Another future Smart Nation initiative involves 400 Ngee Ann Polytechnic students and the conceptualisation of guidance materials to engage visitors that come down to PlayScape or its CityScape and Builder counterparts.
Smart Nation PlayScape is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, and operates from 10am to 5pm. Admission fees apply when entering Science Centre Singapore, with tickets priced at $9 during peak days and complimentary on non-peak days for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents, and $13 for non-residents.