Culture-aware technologies

I believe we will move towards culture-aware technologies as human-machine research advances. I define culture-aware technology as the convergence of future and traditional technologies, engineered and designed for cross-cultural fluidity. 

We are in a unique position to combine technologies of the 4th industrial revolution – 3D printing, machine learning amongst others – with our heritage of traditional technologies  – wood carving, weaving and much more – to implement novel systems designed to understand, connect and fluidly interchange the pluralities of arts, music, food, religions, theater, dance, beliefs and ideas we share as human beings. Technology can be made better for all users; from all cultures.


My most recent project called fidularwhich combines 3D printing and woodworking, demonstrates this vision in the context of traditional musical instruments. Musical instruments from across cultures are a perfect starting point to discuss the convergence of science, art and culture in creating new technologies.

1 Circular fidularReaders may be familiar with the 二胡 Erhu , a bowed stringed instrument from China. The Erhu is just one of many fiddles from across East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Over centuries of refinement, each culture has optimized a unique combination of geometries and materials – from wood, snake, calf, cat and even fish skin – to produce fiddles with beautiful and distinct timbres. However, because the components are permanently bonded together, there is no easy way for musicians and luthiers to experience this diversity without having to obtain an entirely new fiddle each time. How can we engineer a fiddle that embraces this plurality of timbres?

fidular is a modular fiddle system designed for cross-cultural fluidity in traditional bowed instruments. Players can swap the mellow coconut of a Thai ซออู้ Saw-U for the nasal lacquer of a Korean 해금 Haegum, all while retaining the brass strings of an Iraqi جوزه Joza. The project re-imagines each tradition’s chamber as swappable “cultural modules” in an integrated system, each optimized to a heritage of materials and playing style. A heart melting balled? Pick the Thai Saw-U. A lightning fast solo with a rock group? Go for the Vietnamese Danho.

This vision can be extended to all facets of culture. In 15 years time, consumers will not be asking themselves “should I pick the Sony Bot, Apple Bot or Samsung Bot?”. Consumers will ask the question that matters most: “Which robot is best at cooking Thai food for my kids?” – that is, which piece of technology is more culture-aware than the other.

Lamtharn (Hanoi) Hantrakul

Lamtharn Hantrakul


You can call me Hanoi – though I’m not Vietnamese, I’m Thai!

I graduated from Yale University in May 2015 (Cum Laude) with a double major in Applied Physics (BS, with Distinction) and Music (BA, with Distinction).

I am currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.


Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 11.45.58 PMMy life-long dream is to establish a research institute in ASEAN dedicated to culture-aware technologies. The innovations will leverage intersections of Science, Engineering and Art (SEA) with local expertise in Southeast Asia (SEA), a combination I call the [SEA]2 vision. (“Sea squared”)


One comment

  1. Mr Gosling

    Hi Hanoi, Very interesting – I love the Ray Charles DnB remix too.
    Mr Gosling

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