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Hands On with REWILD Our Planet: Singapore’s First Augmented Reality Experience

Documentaries such as the Planet Earth and Blue Planet have enthralled viewers with its stunning footage and imagery of living and breathing cycle of nature.

With that same vision in mind, the same team behind those series set out to make Our Planet, a documentary series in the same vein as its predecessors. The Netflix series, which launched all its episodes on 5 April 2019, gives us a peek at how our actions are affecting the planet — and its inhabitants that roam the wild.

To go one step beyond in educating the public about the protection of our environment, Netflix has collaborated with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Singapore, Google, PHORIA and ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay to present REWILD Our Planet, a social augmented reality (AR) experience that is the first of its kind in Singapore.

REWILD Our Planet combines elements from the show along with cutting-edge AR technology from PHORIA. Together, it transports people into a world of nature, all while being serenaded by the voice of Sir David Attenborough.

The leading heads of each organisation came together at ArtScience Museum to mark the occasion in a roundtable-style chat with media hosted by KISS92 FM’s Charmaine Yee.

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Speaking about REWILD, ArtScience’s Executive Director Honor Harger hoped that it will be able to build an emotional connection between the visitors who experience the immersive encounter with nature and then begin to take real-world action.

WWF’s Chief of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Kim Stengert elaborated that with this experience the visitors can take a step back, look at the planet and hear David Attenbrough explain what the big problems are — but also giving a glimmer of hope should we act fast enough.

Jessica Lee, Netflix’s Vice President of Communication, recalled a story of her husband watching the documentary, being moved to the point of wanting to take action. She said that with the documentary footage being used in conjunction with the experience, she hopes others will do the same.

Regarding AR, Google APAC’s Head of Creative Technology, Miguel de Andrés-Clavera complemented its use; reasoning that since we make sense of the world with our eyes, AR helps create experiences that add on to it — providing more than we can actually see.

Trent Clews-de Castells, CEO of PHORIA, mused that technology has come to a point that it can communicate and shine a light on issues around the world in a new experience, and that he was excited to share what REWILD could do.

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From left to right: Honor Harger (ArtScience), Kim Stengert (WWF), Miguel de Andrés-Clavera(Google), Jessica Lee (Netflix), Trent Clews-de Castella (PHORIA)

The session ended with a group photo-taking before we were led to another room to try our hand at the AR experience. Inside the room, we were greeted by a giant IMAX screen as well as eager WWF volunteers waiting to show us the experience. We were then split into groups before it began.

Being handed a Google Pixel 3 phone, the volunteers instructed us to point the phone towards markers that were on the floor — soon, we were seeing a globe on our screens while Sir David narrated the premise of Our Planet. Gradually, the globe changed forms as the fictive anecdote went on, unravelling the different lands, giving us a preview of the world we will visit.

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We were then told we would be visiting the forests for our preview as it is based on one of the early episodes of the 8-part series. Soon, the screen transported us to the forests of Borneo. Lines on the floor that tracked our position as we moved around to reforest the area, essentially “rewilding” our planet.

Before the experience ended, we were told to stake a pledge into helping our environment — inviting us to etch our names into the globe to show our support.

The experience only lasted 10 minutes, but we left the session thoroughly impressed with the immersiveness of the technology, which even had us doing a double-take at the role we have on the environment.

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Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. The AR experience is available to the public at the ArtScience Museum from 6 April to 2 June 2019, which opens between 10am to 7pm. The best part of it: admission is free.

Other than the aforementioned Forests section we previewed, the public can also experience the Oceans of Asia, Grasslands of Mongolia and Frozen worlds of the Arctic. Each section comes with its own unique experience.

REWILD Our Planet
Date: Saturday, 6 April 2019 to Sunday, 2 June 2019
Time: 10am-7pm
Venue: ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
For more information on the event, please visit REWILD.wwf.sg or www.marinabaysands.com/museum/REWILD-our-planet

Photos by Goh Jing Wen of the DANAMIC team.

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Russell Matthew Loh

Yes I have two names. no I'm not Eurasian. Self-professed David Fincher fan.

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