Dr. Karthik Ramani:
Time for Deep Design: The Emerging Machine Age

Event Date: April 21, 2014
Hosted By: CoE Office of Academic Affairs
Time: 3:30 PM
Location: Fu Room, POTR 234
Contact Name: Marsha Freeland
Contact Phone: 765-494-5349
Contact Email: mjfreeland@purdue.edu
Open To: all
Karthik Ramani
Dr. Karthik Ramani


The convergence of many fields of science and engineering are being empowered by digitally driven technologies. This convergence of the physical and digital has the power and potential of challenging our conventional notions of machines, products, built infrastructures: their sustainable creation, manufacturing, and services in virtually all fields. The digitization and merging of physical artifacts together with the computer networks are fundamentally as powerful as the creation of the steam engine in the industrial era. Already these digital technologies are challenging standard skills of humans, and eliminating them or replacing them in many new ways. The universities role in accreditation is also being challenged through entrepreneurial startups. The very notions of learning, content creation, its distribution and application, and how companies will evaluate the competency of its candidates for employment are being questioned.

Powered by Moore’s law and networks, this rapid transformation is going well beyond the electronics and the information age into a new machine age. The elimination of old technologies, the taming and democratization of the complex technologies, and creation of new ones will drive this creative destruction. In this talk, I will try to summarize our labs journey since the mid 80’s (Browser Era), through the search engine era (Information Age), and the emerging era (New Machine Age) of rapid changes. I will outline how our research has morphed and pivoted during the past two decades. They include design-driven research in manufacturing, geometry inspired research creating the worlds first commercial shape-based search engine, machine learning/heat kernel driven research to understand shapes, natural user interface driven hands-free shape-modeling and computer supported creativity. Our new directions in collaborative research include secure co-creation of products and visually integrated exploratorium for design. Experiences in creating startups and companies such as Global-Grocer,Cyber-Board, Imaginestics/VizSeek and ZeroUI will be discussed. The embedding of learning in design through constructivism-based theories and learning sciences will be shown both in a toy-design course as well as distance education.

These times of rapid transformation urges us to help students learn differently and empower them with creative skill sets. Faster clock speeds will continue to push research to be done in new ways by breaking away the artificial “silos” of knowledge between our traditional notions of fields both in research and in education. Using a design framework, the transformative pressures on the university eco-system, especially with larger student bodies, to support and create this new age in both its depth and breadth will be explored.


Karthik Ramani is the Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Mechanical Engineering, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (By Courtesy) at Purdue University. He earned his B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1985, an MS from Ohio State University, in 1987, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1991, all in Mechanical Engineering. Among his many awards he received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Initiation Award, the NSF CAREER Award, the Ralph Teetor Educational Award from the SAE, and the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from SME. In 2006 he won the innovation of the year award from the State of Indiana. He serves in the editorial board of Elsevier Journal of Computer-Aided Design and ASME Journal of Mechanical Design. In 2008 he was a visiting Professor at Stanford University (computer sciences) as well as a research fellow at PARC (formerly Xerox PARC). He also serves on the SBIR/STTR advisory board within the NSF Industrial Innovation and Partnerships Program. In 2006 and 2007, he won the Most Cited Journal Paper award from Computer-Aided Design and the Research Excellence award in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. He won the Outstanding Commercialization award in 2009 and distance education award in 2013 from Purdue University, ASME Kos-Ishii Toshiba award in 2013, ASME Best Paper Award from technical committees four times. In 2012 his labs paper won the all conference best paper award from ASME computers and information in engineering for “Handy Potter”. Since 2010 many of his labs papers have appeared in highly ranked conferences such as IEEE CVPR, ACM SGP, Computer Graphics Forum, ACM UIST, and recently two papers in ACM SIGCHI.