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Interactive digital media
University students created two of Singapore's
successful start-up companies by entering the fray
of gaming and virtual worlds.
Fresbo began when several friends decided it
would be entertaining to create their own virtual
world. They developed technology to manage tens
of thousands of users and created worlds that
would be particularly appealing to an Asian market,
with avatars that resemble anime figures.
What this company did that was different,
however, was to create a world that bridged
social networking sites. "We wanted people from
Friendster or Facebook to communicate with each
other. This is something very different from other
virtual worlds," says Low Bingjiang, CEO and a
Users who add the game application to
their sites can begin playing immediately. This
feature has also allowed Fresbo to market itself
through the user sites, offering, for instance, free
furniture to decorate online homes if users invite
friends to join. After only four months, Fresbo
became the top game in Friendster, with about
Seed money and mentoring from the multi-
agency Interactive Digital Media R&D Programme
Office (IDM PO), hosted within the Media
Development Authority of Singapore (MDA),
helped Fresbo to get started, just as it assisted the
founders of gaming company Garena.
Garena developed a solution that tapped into
two global forces: gaming and global intercon-
"We are all gamers," says Dinesh Raju, one of
Garena's young executives. "We thought it'd be
great to play games within a global community. So
we wrote an application that allows people to play
LAN (local area network) games over the Internet."
Making use of unique network-shaping
technology, Garena created software that turns
the Internet into a cyber café connecting gamers
worldwide. Its technology offers a faster, fairer and
more entertaining way to wage online battles.
"You can choose your opponents from a much
wider variety of people, many in other countries.
You get to see how other people play these games
and improve your skill," adds Raju.
In the year and a half since releasing the first
version of the software, Garena attracted seven
million registered users from 180 countries, with
close to 200,000 logged on at peak times.
It's a boost not only to gamers, but also game
Innovations that dazzle
A new ecosystem of innovation is building up in Singapore, with
startups, local companies and national laboratories creating
new, dazzling technologies and innovations.
developed by a 30-member multidisciplinary
team that will incorporate therapeutic func-
tions. It will be able to collect tissue samples
for biopsy or perform targeted drug delivery,
in addition to sending video footage wire-
lessly to doctors for immediate diagnosis.
This focus on multidisciplinary research
is attracting scientists who are interested in
pursuing science at the intersection of fields.
Andrew Ortony, a cognitive scientist
and professor at Northwestern University,
is opening a lab in Fusionopolis as an
A*STAR visiting investigator. His group will
explore the complex dynamics of social
interaction in humans and build computa-
tional models of these processes that can
be used in artificial systems. He expects
his team's research to contribute to the
next generation of work in social robotics.
"Robots of the future will have to be able
to interact with humans in sensitive and
socially appropriate ways---for example, in
the context of elderly care," he says.
Ortony is in the midst of assembling
an interdisciplinary team of researchers
with backgrounds in areas such as social
and cognitive psychology, computational
linguistics, decision theory, cognitive ar-
chitectures and multi-agent systems, and
"It has been an amazing experience. Not
only is the research group highly inter-
disciplinary, it is also highly international.
We now have fifteen research staff and
affiliates from eight different nationalities,"
Both Lim and Zukoski agree that it
all boils down to building a culture of
The "work-live-play-learn" environment
at Fusionopolis and Biopolis, with cafes,
pubs and restaurants, aims to create spon-
Scientific facilities are also shared.
"Researchers spend most of their times in
labs. These shared facilities create more
opportunities for the scientists to speak to
one another," says Chong.
"Singaporeans are well-known for our
ability to work together---it's ingrained in
our DNA," says Lim. "We're trying to infuse
this into the research culture in Singapore."
Using unique network-shaping technology, Garena created software that connects gamers worldwide.
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