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Universal Studios Singapore – Update 11/2011

UPDATE 2!
Transformers: The Ride is now open for technical rehearsal.
For the review/report and photos of the attraction, please go this entry.

UPDATE!
Transformers: The Ride
Previews for all Annual Passholders
On 25th and 26th November 2011
During Park hours (10am to 9pm)
No reservation is required.
All annual passholders will be able to visit both dates and enjoy unlimited access during park hours.

(For more info please click on Read More and scroll to the bottom)

TTR - The Poster!

This month’s update to the new stuff at Universal Studios Singapore include:
Christmas Decor at the Park
Transformers: The Ride Entrance
Transformers Supply Vault (Retail Store)

Continue Reading →

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iPhone 4S, Siri and Singapore

DSCF2003
Despite recommending that iPhone 4 users should stick with their devices for another year… I’ve changed to the iPhone 4S.

It’s a lot easier to get hold of an iPhone 4S in Singapore now (compared to the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4) as most telco companies, especially Singtel, did away with their messy and unreliable “queue” system for walk-in purchases.

The greatest motivation to upgrade? Since I’m reading Interactive Media this semester, I thought it would be enlightening to get a first-hand experience with conversational interfaces. Personal assistants and chatbots have come a long way since the Eliza – the pseudo-psychiatrist robot – spoke to bewildered new media majors, all struggling with their term papers on interactivity. Okay, that’s a lie. Hahaha.

DSCF2005

So anyway, what do you really gain if you upgrade?

iPhone 4 -> iPhone 4S

– Siri
– Dual-core A5 processor
– Dramatically faster performance for most tasks
– Speaker is A LOT louder
– Improved noise-cancelling for Microphone (clearer voice over calls, especially between two iPhone 4S)
– Vibration motor is very quiet
– Antenna is drastically improved (2-3 bars, when iPhone 4 can get only 0-1 bar)
– World phone
– Improved camera sensor + optics (f/2.4 optics)
– Captures 1080p30 video and 8 mega-pixel images
– Weaker battery life (drains more than it should, due to faster processor and some bugs)

iPhone 3GS -> iPhone 4S

All of the above and..
– Retina display
– Front-facing camera
– FaceTime
– Phenomenally faster performance for most tasks
– Slimmer design which feels lighter
– The updated Apple Earphones with 3 buttons (not that you should only use this…)
– A mandatory switch to microSIM

iPhone, iPhone 3G

You should definitely upgrade as these devices do not support iOS 5.

How good is Siri?

Anyway, the voice-recognition ability of Siri is astonishing. In the particular way that it can understand what I’m saying most of the time. There was no need for any accents, or at least, I just spoke normally in Standard Singapore English (NOT Singlish). I believe Siri will work for most Singaporeans with no problems. As long as you speak in complete sentences and enunciate words clearly, Siri will be able to recognise commands. However, special care must be taken when it comes to diction. Any awkward break, or “errrr/hmmmm/lahhh” sort of thing will throw the voice recognition off. If you happen to speak like this then there is no chance that Siri will work.

One thing to note, Siri requires an internet connection at all times for it to function. Voice processing (and finding answers) occurs at Apple’s servers – The Siri interface basically compresses your voice data and sends it to Apple. Eventually, Siri will learn the nuances and speech habits of its owner.

Siri will become more useful in 2012 when location-based search is available in Singapore.

Here are some of “My Siri moments”:


IMG_0173

Siri could interpret this sentence and run a conversion through Wolfram Alpha.


IMG_0171

Wolfram Alpha processes most of the questions. If you are familiar with its capabilities, then Siri simply acts as the voice-recognition agent.

IMG_0172

I’m not sure if Siri is made for people who have little time (or just plain lazy) to use Apps. While Siri does makes things easy (such as setting reminders and calendar events), it does get very tiring after a while to keep speaking to the iPhone.

And to test just how powerful the voice recognition engine is, I have this image to show, courtesy of my sister who first tried this out.
IMG_0170

Of course, Siri has a personality:

IMG_0175

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Top features from iOS 5

Update: 05/10/2011

iPhone 4S annnounced

Apple has unveiled an update to their most popular smartphone, iPhone 4. While the revised product is physically similar to the CDMA (Verizon) iPhone 4, the real changes occur under the hood:

– Dual-core A5 processor, also found in iPad 2
– 8 Megapixel rear camera, Improved camera abilities and 1080p video recording
– Siri Voice Recognition
– World phone (supports UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA, GSM/EDGE, CDMA)
– Bluetooth 4.0 support
– 64GB model now offered
– Airplay Mirroring

Should I upgrade?
Personally, I would recommend iPhone 3G/3GS users to upgrade to enjoy the latest set of features (and er, for some people, this is strangely important for social inclusion/status) – either to the latest iPhone 4S or if budget is tight: the iPhone 4 (which is now available at a lower price). Even after 15 months, it is still a solid-performing smartphone, with the most beautiful screen and a form-factor I call “almost perfect”. All new features (except the ones listed above) will be supported on the iPhone 4 as well.

Current iPhone 4 users should stay put for the next generation iPhone, although it appears that it might be a longer wait than we expect.

iPhone 4S will be available in Singapore on 28th October 2011.

iOS 5 will be released on 12th October 2011 (13th October 2011 in Singapore).


The new iPhone will be revealed at Apple’s media event next week. Along with the birth of the new “must-have” gadget is the public release of iOS 5 for iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad and iPad 2.

I have used iOS 5 on my iPhone 4 for about three months now and it has been a wonderful experience. While the new features in iOS 5 are not completely groundbreaking or even new – in fact Apple adopted most of them from their competitors. It is not just a copy-and-paste job – the features are highly customised for Apple’s devices and I believe that it will allow Apple to re-deliver functional and memorable experiences for their customers.

A number of friends have seen some of the features on my iPhone and wanted to see an entry about them – I’m consolidating my personal favourite features from iOS 5. Perhaps after reading this, you might be compelled to update the moment it’s made available.

Click here to read more…

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Louis Vuitton Marina Bay – Island Maison

Island Maison Jetty Entrance

I’m back after spending an evening at the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands. It was an exclusive preview and there are certainly less than a hundred guests within this gigantic store, leaving my family to tour the Maison rather peacefully with our very sweet and charming guide. In short, this store IS amazing. While I’ve been to the other stores in Singapore and the two Maison stores at Hong Kong, there is just something special about the Island Maison.

The store feels like a mix between a museum and a luxury cruise liner (especially with the Mezzanine level which does resemble a ship’s deck). They could’ve easily built more retail space, but instead there are only two levels at the Island section – the expansive and high ceiling within the Crystal Pavilion is embellished with the eye-catching, floating art called “Upper Strut” by Richard Deacon. The glass facets of the Crystal are filled with cascading white “sails” to block out the excess sunlight, but also gives momentary glimpses into the sea outside. With port holes, deck furniture and an abundance of teak panels, it almost feels like you are “traveling”. You just have to see it.

Before I start bombarding this post with photos, here is a “directory” of all the sections in the Island Maison:

Louis Vuitton Island Maison – Store Layout

Marina Bay Sands Shoppes – Basement Level 1
Store Entrance
Fine Jewellery
Timepieces
Exotic/Rare Leather Goods

Marina Bay Sands Shoppes – Basement Level 2
Store Entrance
Bookstore
Gallery/Tunnel to Crystal Pavilion

Crystal Pavilion North – Level 1
“Jetty”/Outdoor Store Entrance
Men’s Universe: Ready to Wear, Bags and Leather Goods, Accessories
Women’s Universe: Ready to Wear, Bags and Leather Goods, Accessories

Crystal Pavilion North – Mezzanine Level
Travel Room: Trunks, Luggage, Travel Accessories, Ready to Wear
Custom Order Collection


Some interesting info!

There are no “limited editions” or commemorative products for the store’s grand opening. Apparently, the company wants to stop associating products (or at least, special variants) with store launches.

Although the store is completely air-conditioned, those who are sensitive to heat should be aware that the Crystal Pavilion gets a little warm throughout the afternoon. It is a structure mostly made of glass and has generous amounts of sunlight sieving in, after all.

Also, the store can no longer sell items on display, so even if you see something you like on display, you might not be able to bring it home. This rule has been around for years but has been rarely enforced in Singapore, until now at Island Maison. This is to ensure that the customer receives “brand new” pieces.

Unlike the other stores in Singapore, where you can pick and try as much as you like and pay for the item you’ve been touching, the staff can only fetch (brand new) merchandise for customers only after payment. I’m not sure if this is the standard practice everywhere else in the world, but I have observed this at some stores overseas.

Apart from some convenience installations, there are lifts at the Island Maison (but not at the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes sections), an outdoor sitting area, a private lounge and yes, even guest washrooms. Throw in a café and I believe some guests will never want to leave.


Ready for the tour of the Island Maison? Click “Read Full Story!”

Continue Reading →

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The Crystal is calling…

Update!

I have returned from the preview tour of the Louis Vuitton Island Maison! Read all about it in this new blog post!


17th September marks the grand opening of the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. This is the first Maison store in South-east Asia and more excitingly: the world’s first “Island” store. Taking up the entire Crystal Pavilion North at the Sands, the Island Maison spans four stories, two levels underground (from Marina Bay Sands Shoppes) which connects to the two above-ground floors in the Crystal.

I can’t say how excited I am – the Island Maison, like the other 11 in the world, is more than just a place to purchase expensive leather goods. There will be exhibition spaces, galleries and even a bookstore. And yes, this is the 12th Maison in the world. There are many other intriguing design features, just waiting to be explored, in this one of a kind store designed by award-winning architect Peter Marino. Since this is Singapore’s latest flagship store after all, expect to see Louis Vuitton’s entire offering, from their extensive, timeless luggage line-up to the latest Prêt-à-Porter collections, on the shelves. We can also expect a large amount of seasonal exclusives to be made available at this store.

This momentous occasion will take place on the evening of 17th September around the Marina Bay area, with a Gala Opening at the Island Maison followed by a party at One on the Bund at Clifford Pier. Celebrities, socialites and Louis Vuitton’s valued clients will be able to travel to the store at Crystal Pavilion – North, which has a nautical theme after all, via the waters of Marina Bay. You can imagine those luxury yachts sailing around Marina Bay area now.

The Grand Opening festivities can be viewed online on Louis Vuitton’s Facebook page. It will be streamed LIVE from 7PM Singapore Time (GMT+8).

I’ve spotted this cute video from Chuvaness.com, featuring Louis Vuitton’s iconic Groom character! This short animation actually gives a stylised, 3D look into the store’s layout. So wow, there are escalators and a travellator? I’ve only heard of the Champs-Élysées store having nicely decorated escalators!

I am extremely fortunate to be invited to the Island Maison preview tour and grand opening party. LVMH has sent me these beautiful invitation packages!

Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation
Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation

What really surprised me was this leather envelope, crafted in Taiga leather, holding the acrylic invitation card for the Grand Opening party. It has been hot-pressed with “Marina Bay Sands SINGAPORE 2011”

Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation
Louis Vuitton Island Maison invitation

While the store officially opens to the public on 18th September, I will be attending the preview tour with my family this Friday. I will try to get as many pictures as I can from this majestic landmark made of glass and steel. Stay tuned!

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