Haptics Expert Visits Amritapuri

September 23, 2011
Amritapuri Campus

Students, faculty and staff at the Amritapuri campus had the rare opportunity to meet with and learn about the research of Dr. Kenneth Salisbury, an expert in haptics, when he visited their campus this past week.

A tactile feedback technology that takes advantage of a user’s sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions to a user, haptics uses mechanical stimulation to assist in the creation and control of virtual objects.

It is one way to enable virtual reality.


“Haptics is an emerging field of research and Amrita is a forerunner in introducing haptics to India,” stated Dr. Balakrishnan Shankar, while introducing Dr. Kenneth to the Amritapuri fraternity.

Dr. Kenneth was at MIT for 15 years, where he developed robotic hands and arms with haptic interfaces for surgical simulations. Today Amrita uses the same technology to develop educational content for vocational training.

Explaining why patient-specific surgical simulation was hard and interesting, Dr. Kenneth explained, “Collision detection and response with compliant materials is difficult. Realistic visual/haptic rendering must obey laws of physics. Surgical simulation is more difficult than flight simulation. It’s still in its infancy.”

Surgical simulation is used to manipulate tumors to determine whether or not they are cancerous. Dr. Kenneth’s group has developed an Intuitive Surgical’s DaVinci Surgical Robot, which has many tiny hands that go inside small holes. These enable minimal invasive surgery with the greatest chances for success.


The Robot has been used for procedures to treat a range of conditions ie. bladder, kidney, colorectal, gynecologic, prostrate, throat and thyroid cancers as well as coronary artery disease, obesity, mitral valve prolapse and gynecologic disorders.

Providing many more examples, Dr. Kenneth also introduced ROS and ROSIE. “ROS (Robot Operating System) provided an environment where everyone could share their software. My students created it to help people in all sorts of domains.”

“ROSIE is a large robot that does all the housework. It is a mobile platform with arms. The platform enables people to create devices — mechanical systems with rich capabilities.”

Vinu Prasad, Vishnu Pradeep, Sarath K. S. and Vishnu Aravind are final-year students of B.Tech. (Electronics and Communication Engineering) at the Amritapuri campus. Their final-year project intends to help stroke patients regain movement in their arms. “Our project uses exo-skeleton haptics and we got new ideas today from interacting with Dr. Kenneth,” the students shared.


Dr. Kenneth earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford in 1982. During 1982-1999, he served as Principal Research Scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.

In 1997, he joined the staff of Intuitive Surgical in Mountain View, CA, where his efforts focused on the development of telerobotic systems for the operating room. In 1999, he began teaching at Stanford, where he continues till date. His research focuses on medical robotics and surgical simulation, and the design of robots for interaction with and near human beings.

Dr. Kenneth’s lecture at the Amritapuri campus was sponsored by by S.A.V.E. (Sakshat Amrita Vocational Education).

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