Ruta Desai

I am a PhD student at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University working with Stelian Coros and Jim McCann. My research interests lie in applying optimization and data-driven techniques to solve complex real-world problems. For my current research, I build computational design tools that enable casual users to build robots, towards increasing accessibility of robotics. In the long term, I would like to build technologies that enhance the life and well-being of community at large.

In the past, I have had not-so-brief stints in the area of human motor control and biomechanical simulations. During my Masters, I worked with Hartmut Geyer on understanding human control of leg placement. I have also spent some time trying to understand human balance, and motor skill aquisition in people learning bongoboarding with Jessica K. Hodgins as an intern at Disney Research Pittsburgh.

In 2017, I spent a wonderful summer with the User Interface Research group at Autodesk Research, Toronto. I worked with Fraser Anderson, Justin Matejka, and Tovi Grossman on a data-driven design tool for robots.

I received the Siebel Scholarship in 2013, Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship in 2012, and Dr. Kanako Miura's Award in Humanoids 2014.

Email: rutad[at]

CV  /  Thesis  /  Google Scholar
RI webpage /  Code

Research Highlights

Computational Tools for Robot Design

The goal of my thesis is to make robotics more accessible to casual users by reducing the domain knowledge required in designing and building robots. Towards this end, I have developed several interactive design tools that enable the design of desired structure and behavior of diverse robots.

Interactive tool for articulated robot design

This tool allows novices to create custom articulated robots such as manipulators and walking robots. It supports both manual and automatic design, and enables design testing using physics-based simulation.

Featured on Techcrunch and ACM!

Try it out!

Interactive tool for non-articulated robot design

This tool enables novices to create smart IoT devices with embedded sensors using digital fabrication. It automatically finds assembly-aware packing of components within the device, and exports necessary geometries for 3D printing.

In revision

Semantic design of expressive robot behaviors

I am currently exploring if one can design complex robot behaviors such as robot walking based on the emotion the behavior evokes!

Ongoing work, in collaboration with Autodesk Research, Toronto.


Computational Design, Human-Computer Interaction

Interactive Co-Design of Form and Function for Legged Robots using the Adjoint Method
Ruta Desai, Beichen Li, Ye Yuan and Stelian Coros
Submitted, under review                           

arXiv Preprint | Video

Computational Abstractions for Interactive Design of Robotic Devices
Ruta Desai, Ye Yuan and Stelian Coros
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Singapore (2017).                          

PDF | bib | Slides | Video | Code
Robot models for fabrication: car, walking robot

3D Printing Pneumatic Device Controls with Variable Activation Force Capabilities
Marynel Vazquez, Eric Brockmeyer, Ruta Desai, Chris Harrison and Scott E. Hudson
ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Seoul, Korea, (2015).

PDF | bib | Poster | Video

Human Motion Modeling, Human Motor Control, Biomechanics
A Simple Model of Skill Acquisition in a Dynamic Balance Task
Ruta Desai and Jessica K. Hodgins
Dynamic Walking, Columbus, USA (2015).

PDF | bib | Poster | Video
Virtual Model Control for Dynamic Lateral Balance
Ruta Desai, Hartmut Geyer and Jessica K. Hodgins
IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), Madrid, Spain (2014).

PDF | bib
Integration of an Adaptive Swing Control into a Neuromuscular Human Walking Model
Seungmoon Song, Ruta Desai and Hartmut Geyer
IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), Osaka, Japan (2013).

PDF | bib | Video

Muscle-Reflex Control of Robust Swing Leg Placement
Ruta Desai and Hartmut Geyer
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Karlsruhe, Germany (2013).

PDF | bib

Robust Swing Leg Placement under Large Disturbances
Ruta Desai and Hartmut Geyer
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO), Guangzhou, China (2012).

PDF | bib | Video

Patents and Articles
Robust swing leg controller under large disturbances
Ruta Desai and Hartmut Geyer
US Patent 20150066156 A1 (2014).                                                                                                                 


A Brief Overview of Human and Robot Motor Learning
Ruta Desai
RI CMU Technical Report                                                                                                                 



Women in Technology

I am always looking to support and contribute towards encouraging women in science and technology. In the past:

CMU Laptop Rehab

A bunch of us refurbish old laptops and desktops and donate them to schools. Read more!

Miscellaneous Projects

Some fun projects from the past.

Bayesian Optimization with a Neural Network Kernel
Akshara Rai, Ruta Desai, and Siddharth Gopal


Personalized Fountains that Create 3D Shapes Out of Water
Ruta Desai and Arun Srivatsan Rangaprasad

PDF | Video (duck-shaped fountain)

Last updated: December 2017

Webpage adapted from Jon Barron.