Fresh Eyes, New Perspectives: Home Improvement with Augmented Reality
Using Augmented Reality (AR) to help seniors see the world afresh and visualise improvements to their HDB homes may seem like science fiction – but for Cheryl Chiam, it’s all part of a regular day at work.
When you think about home improvements for our seniors, AR is probably not the first thing that springs to mind. But HDB is harnessing this latest technology to make welcome changes to the lives of Singapore’s seniors.
AR technology revolutionises the way we visualise and consume digital information and spatial imagery, by overlaying digital images onto the real world. Although many AR apps today are designed mainly with the younger generation in mind, HDB has proven that they can be put to wider use to bring convenience to our seniors as well.
The question is — what does it take to make that AR dream a reality?
As the team lead for mobile technology in HDB, Cheryl is dedicated to finding novel ways to improve the Mobile@HDB app as an enabling platform to deliver services to citizens.
Having a positive role model certainly gave Cheryl clarity about the type of career she wanted. She was inspired to join the Public Service after witnessing her mother’s own rewarding career at HDB. Now, Cheryl has found her path at HDB as an Executive Systems Analyst where she enjoys using technology to make citizens’ lives better.
Creating a Seamless Experience for Everyone
Cheryl has worked on numerous technology projects to improve the HDB service experience for customers, including re-designing and streamlining the process of issuing queue numbers for the different types of appointments in Mobile Concierge. By issuing queue numbers to customers via their mobile devices before they arrive at the HDB service counter, customers need not congregate and wait at the service counter. This provides a safer environment for all during this COVID-19 period. Customers will get an alert when their appointment time is due This seamless service experience enables customers to better manage their time.
The Enhancements for Active Seniors (EASE) programme helps senior residents install items, such as grab bars and ramps, at their homes at a subsidised cost to make their homes more accessible and elderly-friendly. Cheryl’s team plays a part here where AR is used to help seniors visualise these improvements to their homes.
Reality (But Not as You Know it)
AR technology isn’t new to HDB. AR was also used to display prices for resale flats using location markers. Interestingly, during this pandemic where physical outreach has been limited, HDB has found a new use of AR to bring services closer to residents.
Cheryl and her team leveraged Apple’s latest ARKit technology and Google’s ARCore to create AR experiences with true-to-scale 3D models built to the original design specifications. To assess the feasibility and usefulness of 3D model AR experiences, ethnographic research was conducted. She says, “This gave us the opportunity to conduct site visits to the showrooms and visit residents to observe them trying out various ramps. It was a good learning experience to see first-hand what really goes on, on the ground.”
It was a challenging process that involved a lot of research and trials, but Cheryl persevered. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast and learn faster. Keep questioning as learning is a life-long process,” Cheryl affirms.
A fun bonus? Cheryl and her team get to try exciting new mobile devices, as they must test new features to ensure compatibility with new software.
Want Cheryl’s Job? Be a Technology Lover!
A typical workday for Cheryl entails designing, developing, testing, and implementing new features on HDB digital platforms.
“As a project leader, I help my teammates resolve any challenges that arise. I also interact with the business users to understand their requirements,” shares Cheryl.
Cheryl and her team are constantly provided with opportunities to work on new technologies. For example, although she started out doing mobile app development, she has since progressed to mastering cloud technologies for internal business operations. As Cheryl says, “The learning never stops with technology!”
She finds her work fulfilling and satisfying because it helps to make Singapore a better place. She hopes that technology continues to elevate our lives and above all, that it allows us to keep forging meaningful connections.
[SOURCES]Interview with Cheryl Chiam