Robotic Gulingtangan: A Fusion of Modern Innovation and Traditional Culture

The word Gulingtangan is synonymous with Bruneian culture. The traditional musical instrument is played mainly during religious functions or weddings, and is usually accompanied by other instruments, such as the gong, the tawak-tawak, the canang, and the gandang lambik.

There is normally someone who sits behind this soothing-sounding instrument who would hit the notes in unison with the other instruments, along to familiar traditional songs. However, what if one injects a futuristic innovation into the traditional musical instrument?

At the recent Pesta Konvo, Faculty of Integrated Technologies (FIT) students, Ak Ahmad Al-Khairi Pg Hj Tejudin (Energy System Engineering) and Hirdy Othman (Manufacturing System Engineering) revealed their cleverly-devised robotic Gulingtangan. Working under the supervision of Pg Dr Iskandar Petra, the students hoped to prevent loss of valuable heritage by adding an innovative twist to the traditional instrument. After nine months of hard work, the team finally built a prototype that made its debut at the Pesta Konvo.

With the guidance of Pg Dr Iskandar, Hirdy explained that the duo began work on the robotic Gulingtangan in December 2015. Simulating a human playing on the instrument, robotic arms were designed, which would swing the sticks and hit the gongs. Various research and surveys were conducted to find the material, which included visiting car dump areas looking for scraps that could be salvaged and used in the prototype.

The robot is switched on by hovering one’s hand over a touchless sensor. Currently, the students have coded two traditional songs for the instrument, “samalindang” and “adai-adai”. Hirdy added that they are hoping to produce more songs, both traditional and modern, to be played at any occasion, particularly in UBD.

He admitted that in undertaking the project, they had expanded their knowledge on traditional music and its instruments, and also understood the development of software.

Hirdy said the project helps them understand the development of software, which expands the knowledge on local musical instruments as well as local traditional music. He added that a similar basis of programming can be expanded to other local musical instruments such as the gambus and rebana (tambourine), which, in turn, could increase the commercial value of the software.

These applications can be used as a foundation for developing a variety of music to suit customers, which could increase awareness amongst the younger generation on the importance of local musical instruments. Hirdy said that IT enthusiasts will then be able to utilise the programme and relate them to their interest in the instruments, adding that music learners in general, and schools and clubs in particular, can use the developed software as teaching and learning tools. Moreover, the programme can be sold to music lovers and eventually be reviewed to suit all ages, thus generating income.

Going forward, the students hope to patent their project ideas, and showcase their invention on international platforms to bring spotlight into Brunei and UBD. They are optimistic that their project could generate interest from music lovers, schools, clubs and organisations including the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

“We believe that this new invention of new technology could inspire other students to apply the knowledge they gained as this would be beneficial for the society. Since this robotic Gulingtangan is heavily related to our cultural heritage, we are hoping we could help to preserve them and hence the identity of us as Bruneian while moving along in step with today's technology,” he said.

FIT aims to integrate innovation, engineering and technology. The robotic gulingtangan is a result of the combination between engineering skills and traditional knowledge. With the students’ ability to produce and present innovations such as this project to the public, the faculty has been successful in terms of producing very innovative inventions and, highly capable, entrepreneurial students with bright ideas.

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