Chinese Arts Now updates Augmented Chinatown app

Published: 25 August 2020
Reporter: Vera Liber

Augmented Chinatown 2.0, the app

Chinese Arts Now is to launch a new version of its app Augmented Chinatown 2.0, a live immersive audio tour through Chinatown with augmented reality visuals and a mixture of visuals, miniature audio dramas, music and a guided tour through the area’s past and present.

Users start the tour in Newport Place and walk the streets guided through their phones by writer and narrator Joel Tan. Over the course of an hour, Tan’s narration looks at Chinatown’s history, architecture and culture, as well as ideas about belonging, identity and migration. He takes users to the four gates, only the last of which was created by Chinese artists, and tells how the pagoda was demolished in 2015 without consultation.

At five locations, there is the opportunity to delve deeper into hidden dramas and plunge into the lives of characters including Kim, a stripper who met the Beatles, Anita, a homesick waitress, and a woman whose home is being raided by immigration officials.

Donald Shek’s augmented reality adds visual overlays onto the real-life environment. Tall flowers blossom from the pavement, lanterns light up overhead and washing hangs down from the buildings. The sound score, composed by An-Ting Chang with DJ QuestionMark, includes interactive elements in response to both the augmented reality and the miniature dramas.

For those unable to travel into London, there is also an off-site version of the app.

Augmented Chinatown 2.0 has been developed from an earlier iteration by artist Donald Shek which was first seen at the CAN Festival 2019. Chinese Arts Now’s director An-Ting Chang then came up with the idea of expanding his app into a singular multimedia storytelling experience. They then brought writer Joel Tan on board and the three collaborators devised the structure and direction of Augmented Chinatown 2.0.

The actors are Mia Foo, Jennifer Lim, David Yip and Daniel York and the musicians are Midori Komachi and Xiao Wan.