App tracks history of the tramway

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


The tramway is a constant reminder of the city's past and now passengers can relive that history with an audio and visual guided tour.

It comes courtesy of a free mobile app for iPhone and Android users, which locates the passenger's zone by GPS, and provides pictures and commentary on landmarks.

'The tram is one of the oldest forms of public transportation in Hong Kong. Trams have seen the city through multiple changes in landscape,' said Anthony Yeh Gar-on, head professor of the University of Hong Kong's urban planning and design department, who led a team of seven doctoral students and researchers.

When passengers switch on the app in the tram, the historical background of passing streets and neighbourhoods is explained. Pictures of certain streets past and present are shown side by side, while the narrator explains the major changes.

The HK Tram Trail app, which is limited to the section from Western District to Wan Chai, can only be used while on the tram or walking close to the network. It is available in Cantonese, English and Putonghua.

The project is a part of events to celebrate HKU's 100th anniversary, and aims to promote Hong Kong history and the changes since the university opened in March 1911.

'The tram tracks never changed, but the buildings and even landscape around it changed drastically. The tracks were originally built at the seafront, but reclamation had since turned the old sea-coast into blocks of buildings. The app enables people to look back and see the development and changes in Hong Kong in the past 100 years,' said Joseph Ting Sun-pao, adjunct professor of history at Chinese University and a HKU alumni who advised on the project.

The team started working on the project in July with 'basically a zero budget', Yeh said. The team was split with one group on the technology and programming, while the other did the research and curatorship.

PhD student Lan Tian said the biggest challenge was setting up an accurate system to correctly pinpoint the passenger's tram location to play the correct video and audio clips. He said the project was very rewarding.