Dr. Amit Zoran joined the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering in 2014 and heads the School’s new Design, Fabrication and Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory.

While Dr. Zoran’s lab is still being assembled, he is interested in looking at a wider creative spectrum where we can merge digital, electronic expertise with human skills and cultural heritage. He says, “Digitization should be used to aid — not replace — humans. For example, digitized knives with feedback sensors could prevent a chef from slicing off a finger. “The cutting process remains in human hands but the knife becomes a smart tool with modern computerization.” See the video below to see the knife in action.

Dr. Zoran is also interested in hybrid designs that meld traditional crafts and digital input: new art is created but in its individuality references a cultural heritage embedded in craft skills. His concern to preserve rapidly disappearing crafts took him to the Kalahari Desert several times to study hunter-gatherers employing the 50,000-year-old craft of making beads from ostrich eggshells. Besides their ethnographic interest, these expeditions “allow me to explore the integration of digitized tools in craft and open up new avenues for technology design,” he says. “They also highlight the value of designing digital tools that encourage working collectively rather than individually.”

Amit ZoranSome of the items found in Dr. Zoran’s lab are familiar items with a unique twist: a guitar that closely resembles the conventional instrument but is two-dimensional with a replaceable wooden resonator and simulated acoustic chamber; a broken ceramic vase fused with a black 3D-printed nylon mesh; a basket, hand-woven on an intricate and complex digitally designed plastic frame. Each represents different aspects of Zoran’s work; together these hybrid pieces help reveal the underlying philosophy of his work.

“Through my work, I want my fellow engineers to understand our responsibility to society: to maintain the values of our cultural heritage as we merge them with modern technology.”

You can learn more about Dr. Amit Zoran and his lab here.