Need an MRT map quick? A Singapore commuter created this AR tool that pulls one up just by scanning an EZ-Link card

The augmented reality MRT map was created by Singaporean Timothi Lim using Facebook’s SparkAR development platform.
Business Insider / Jonathan Loh

Does pulling up a browser on your phone to search for the MRT map to find the quickest route to an unfamiliar station seem too much of a hassle?

You’re probably not alone.

Now, one innovative commuter is helping to simplify the tedious process with the use of augmented reality (AR): all you need is an EZ-Link card and your smartphone.

Last Friday (July 19), Singaporean video game developer Timothi Lim posted on his Facebook page a video showcasing his invention – an AR camera effect created with Facebook’s AR development platform SparkAR – which works by scanning the back of an adult fare EZ-Link card on a smartphone.

“When you need the Singapore MRT map but there isn’t one nearby, this AR effect can help!” Lim wrote in the caption of the post.

How does it work?

According to Lim, the function works by first accessing the AR effect through a Facebook link which he provided in the caption.

The screen will change to the phone camera’s point of view with a translucent image of the back of an EZ-Link card in the centre. The user simply needs to scan his or her adult fare EZ-Link card by aligning it to the image.

An SMRT map will then appear onscreen. Varying the distance between the card and the camera allows the image of the map to be zoomed in or out. Alternatively, the map can be resized by swiping up or down on the screen.

Tapping on the map locks the image in place, allowing users to look at it without having to constantly hold his or her EZ-Link card in front of the camera. The map can then by resized through pinching gestures and moved around by swiping with a finger.

More convenient and useful alternative

Lim said the motivation behind creating the AR map was to help him find his way around more easily during train commutes, particularly when he needed to have “a quick glance at the whole map”.

He added that he found it more “reassuring” to travel to new areas when he had access to the whole map rather than the individual line maps found inside MRT trains.

I decided to try the AR map for myself to find out if it’s really as effective and convenient as Lim described.

Here’s how it went:

Business Insider / Jonathan Loh

To my surprise, the AR effect was able to identify the back of the adult EZ-Link card I was holding almost immediately and the entire MRT map popped up on my screen like a hologram.

Although the image was a little jittery as I moved my card and camera around, looking at different parts of the map was still a really smooth experience.

What impressed me most was the ability of the AR effect to show a lot of detail – including the station names and codes which looked tiny on screen – without compromising on clarity.

However, because of the small font size, the function might not be as easy to use for certain groups of people such as the elderly or those with poor eyesight, even if the person is using a phone with a larger screen.

Regardless, it was an intriguing experience looking at the map in such an unconventional way.

And while the AR effect isn’t very accessible (it has to be opened through the link in Lim’s post), I found it useful to save it in the “Notes” function of my smartphone for better access to it when needed.

After testing the AR effect using an adult EZ-Link card, I gave it another go using my concession and NETS FlashPay cards – which have a different back design – to see if the map function works as well.

Business Insider / Jonathan Loh

Unlike the adult EZ-Link card, the concession and NETS FlashPay cards were not able to make the map appear on my screen despite several attempts.

To be fair, Lim did write in his post that the blue adult EZ-Link card is the only one that is currently compatible with the function as according to him, it is the most common card used by commuters.

Nonetheless, upcoming updates to the AR effect will include compatibility with Standard Tickets, Tourist Passes and the NETS FlashPay card, he said.

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