Posts Tagged ‘Waldo’

1950 – Remote-control Manipulator – Art Youmans (American)

Several feet away, the operator controls the arm from this chair.

It can measure out liquid by the drop.

 "Adelbert"—Science's "Right Arm"—Can Even Write Its Name
ALTHOUGH it looks more like a dentist's oversized drill, a gentle-acting mechanical arm called "Adelbert" is actually built like the human arm. It has an elbow, shoulder, wrist and fingers. Unlike normal arms, it is completely double-jointed.
Adelbert's inventor is Art Youmans, who works for a Tulsa company that does radioactivity well logging in surveying oil fields. Radioactive materials often require remote handling, hence the invention of remotely operated Adelbert. Youmans spent 18 months working on his robot.
Similar arms are in use in research labs, but Youmans claims his arm is best. It is versatile. It can snatch up heavy cans or fondle eggs. It pours from slender test tubes as adroitly as a chemist. Even untrained operators can pour liquids with Adelbert and not spill a drop. A favorite trick is to pick up a pencil and write its name.
The operator sits in a one-armed chair—the arm being the control. When the operator moves this arm forward by pivoting his arm from the shoulder, Adelbert does likewise. Raise a forearm and the mechanical arm mirrors the action. A pistol-grip bar controls the twisting of the wrist. This movement even outdoes the human arm- can spin its hand all the way around in either direction. That's handy for screwing nuts on bolts. Open the fingers and Adelbert follows suit. Unaffected by radiation, Adelbert offers safety and deftness—a combination atomic researchers need.

Inventor Art Youmans watches his "right arm" mix chemicals.

It is gentle enough to handle eggs.

Publication number    US2861699 A
Publication date    25 Nov 1958
Filing date    16 Oct 1950
Also published as    DE976882C
Inventors    Arthur H Youmans
Original Assignee    Gen Mills Inc

Remote-control Manipulator

The present invention ……… provides a manipulator that may be entirely electrically operated from a remote point …….  The manipulator can be operated by a separate unit which transmits power to it in any desired manner. The device of the instant invention can be made to perform all of the operations that can be performed with the human arm as well as operations which would be incapable of performance with the human arm. It can be made to perform double jointed movements and large angle deflections of its elements which cannot be duplicated by the human arm. It is fundamentally different from a set of tongs because it can be directed to perform a complicated series of movements which the operator at the controls supervises but does not himself perform.

It can perform operations at any rate and in any manner which the operator chooses and each operation can be controlled with any degree of precision which the operator desires by independently reducing or increasing the speed of the separate elements moving in their respective degrees of freedom. Since each of the movable elements of the manipulator forming the subject matter of the present invention may be moved independently, delicate operations may be performed by incrementally moving one element at a time about its pivotal joint while all other movable elements of the apparatus remain automatically relatively fixed.

The apparatus of the instant invention is extremely versatile in that the hand of the manipulator is provided with gripping members which may be adjutsed to the position of the object being handled with respect to the axis of rotation of the hand. Thus, for example, in pouring one can hold the lip of the vessel stationary while rotating the body of the vessel or in holding a screw driver one can make the blade stay in a screw slot during rotation of the screw driver. This is made possible by adjusting the span of the hand by moving one set of digits which oppose a movable thumb in a manner that will align the object to be manipulated with the axis of rotation of the hand. Novel arrangements have been provided for actuating the grasping digits of the hand whereby any desired pressure can be exerted by the digits on the object being grasped at the will of the operator through the medium of the novel control provided for the manipulator. 

… see more patent description here.

See other Early Teleoperators and Manipulators here.

1925 – Teledactyl Remote Manipulator – Hugo Gernsback (German/American)

I'm having difficulty in obtaining a copy of this magazine, so I have used the original article and illustrations from Matt Novak's wonderful Paleofuture/Smithsonian article here.

Hugo Gernsback’s device was called the "radio teledactyl” and would allow doctors to not only see their patients through a viewscreen, but also touch them from miles away with spindly robot arms. He effectively predicted telemedicine, though with a weirder twist than we see implemented in 2012.

Source: Science and Invention, February, 1925: Original illustrations by Geo Wall.

The Teledactyl (Tele, far; Dactyl, finger — from the Greek) is a future instrument by which it will be possible for us to “feel at a distance.” This idea is not at all impossible, for the instrument can be built today with means available right now. It is simply the well known telautograph, translated into radio terms, with additional refinements. The doctor of the future, by means of this instrument, will be able to feel his patient, as it were, at a distance….The doctor manipulates his controls, which are then manipulated at the patient’s room in exactly the same manner. The doctor sees what is going on in the patient’s room by means of a television screen.

The doctor of the future examines a patient (1925)

Quite impressively, the teledactyl was imagined as a sensory feedback device, which allowed the doctor to not only manipulate his instruments from afar, but feel resistance.

Here we see the doctor of the future at work, feeling the distant patient’s arm. Every move that the doctor makes with the controls is duplicated by radio at a distance. Whenever the patient’s teledactyl meets with resistance, the doctor’s distant controls meet with the same resistance. The distant controls are sensitive to sound and heat, all important to future diagnosis.

Gernsback positions his predictions about telemedicine within the rapidly changing communications landscape of the 1920s:

As our civilization progresses we find it more and more necessary to act at a distance. Instead of visiting our friends, we now telephone them. Instead of going to a concert, we listen to it by radio. Soon, by means of television, we can stay right at home and view a theatrical performance, hearing and seeing it. This, however is far from sufficient. As we progress, we find our duties are multiplied and we have less and less to transport our physical bodies in order to transact business, to amuse ourselves, and so on.

The busy doctor, fifty years hence, will not be able to visit his patients as he does now. It takes too much time, and he can only, at best, see a limited number today. Whereas the services of a really big doctor are so important that he should never have to leave his office; on the other hand, his patients cannot always come to him. This is where the teledactyl and diagnosis by radio comes in.

It wasn’t just the field of medicine that was going to be revolutionized by this new device. Other practical uses would involve seeing and signing important documents from a distance:

The man of 1975 signs important documents by videophone (1925)

Here we see the man of the future signing a check or document at a distance. By moving the control, it goes through exactly the same motions as he would in signing he document. He sees what he is doing by means of the radio teleview in front of him. The bank or other official holds the document in front of a receiving teledactyl, to which is attached a pen or other writing instrument. The document is thus signed.

This diagram also explained how the teledactyl worked:

Diagram explaining how the teledactyl was supposed to work (1925)

Interestingly, we’d see this idea for telemedicine pop up again in 1990s concept videos from AT&T and Pacific Bell.

A year after this article was released Gernsback began publishing Amazing Stories, the first magazine that was devoted entirely to science fiction. Gernsback published a number of different magazines throughout his life, but I’d argue that none were filled with more rich, retro-future goodness than Science and Invention.

See about Waldoes here.

See other Teleoperators here.


1942 – Waldo, Waldoes and Master Exoskeletons

Selective Timeline

1942 Robert Heinlein – Waldo

1943 – Deaton Puppet Animating Harness Patent

1948 GE Master-Slave Manipulator – John Payne

1948 Ray Goertz Master-Slave Manipulator

1953 Harvey Chapman – Garco

1954 Ray Goertz Electric Servo-Manipulator

1956 GE Yes Man – Exoskeleton Manipulator

1963 Science & Mechanics – "Waldo" as master-slave manipulators

1963 Rogers et al / Disney – Patent for Animating Apparatus

1990 WaldoTM The Character Shop

1942 – Robert Heinlein – Waldo

Waldo (1942) is a short story by Robert A. Heinlein originally published in Astounding Magazine in August 1942 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald (see cover image by Hubert Rogers above). It is available in the book Waldo & Magic, Inc., as well as other collections.

{Note: In Heinlein's book Waldo, it has a copyright date of 1940 as well as 1942. )

From wikipedia – The essence of the story is the journey of a mechanical genius from his self-imposed exile from the rest of humanity to a more normal life, conquering the disease myasthenia gravis as well as his own contempt for humans in general. The key to this is that magic is loose in the world, but in a logical and scientific way.

Waldo Farthingwaite-Jones was born a weakling, unable even to lift his head up to drink or to hold a spoon. Far from destroying him, this channeled his intellect, and his family's money, into the development of the device patented as "Waldo F. Jones' Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph". Wearing a glove and harness, Waldo could control a much more powerful mechanical hand simply by moving his hand and fingers. This and other technologies he develops make him a rich man, rich enough to build a home in space.

In the story, these devices became popularly known as "waldoes". In reference to this story, the real-life remote manipulators that were later developed also came to be called waldoes.

Robert A. Heinlein claims a much earlier origin for remote manipulators.[1] He wrote that he got the idea for "waldos" after reading a 1918 article in Popular Mechanics about "a poor fellow afflicted with myasthenia gravis … [who] devised complicated lever arrangements to enable him to use what little strength he had."

[ReubenH-I've searched high and low for the quoted 1918 PM article, going through every page even for the years 1917-19 and never found it.]

1.   Heinlein, Robert A.  (1957), "Science fiction: its nature, faults and virtues", in Davenport, Basil, The Science Fiction Novel, Chicago: Advent, 1959

Various extracts from the book:

"Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him; all three pairs, including the secondary pair before the machine, came to life. Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism. "

This invention, also called the Waldo F. Jones Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph, was immediately put into use in the nascent nuclear power industry.

In the story, Heinlein plays around with the idea. He considers waldoes that are so small, they look like "tiny pixy hands, an inch across." He also describes some very large waldoes: There were waldoes rigged near the spherical wall, too, including a pair so huge that Stevens could not conceive a use for it… Extended, each hand spread quite six feet from little finger to thumb tip.


During World War II, Heinlein did aeronautical engineering for the U.S. Navy, also recruiting Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to work at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania.

"… Neither electromagnetic instruments nor neural surgery was refined enough to do accurate work on the levels he wished to investigate.
But he had waldoes.
The smallest waldoes he had used up to this time were approximately half an inch across their palms–with micro scanners to match, of course. They were much too gross for his purpose. …
He used the waldoes to create tinier ones. …
His final team of waldoes used for nerve and brain surgery varied in succeeding stages from mechanical hands nearly life size down to these fairy digits which could manipulate things much too small for the eye to see. They were mounted in bank to work in the same locus. Waldo controlled them all from the same primaries; he could switch from one size to another without removing his gauntlets. The same change in circuits which brought another size of waldoes under control automatically accomplished the change in sweep of scanning to increase or decrease the magnification so that Waldo always saw before him in his stereo receiver a “life-size” image of his other hands."

"Even the  ubiquitous and grotesquely humanoid gadgets known universally as 'waldoes'-Walso F. Jones's Synchronous Reduplication Pantograph, Pat. #296,001,437, new series, et  al-passed through several generations of development and private use in Waldo's machine shop before he redesigned them for mass production… Near the man, mounted on the usual stand, were a pair of primary waldoes, elbow length and digited. They were  floating on the line, in parallel with a similar pair in front of Waldo. the secondary waldoes, whose actions would be controlled by Waldo himself by means of his primaries, were mounted in front of the power tool in the position of the operator…(pp24, 26)

1948 GE Master-Slave Manipulator – John Payne

Patent number: 2476249 (see here)
Filing date: Nov 24, 1948
Issue date: Jul 1949

1948 Ray Goertz Master-Slave Manipulator

(Developed in 1948 – patent filed in 1949)

Patent number: 2632574 (see here)
Filing date: Dec 16, 1949
Issue date: Mar 1953

1953 Harvey Chapman – Garco

Garco – Harvey Chapman Jr., 1953.

Patent number: 2858947 (see pdf here)
Filing date: Nov 16, 1953
Issue date: Nov 1958

The push-buttons, as indicated on the drawing below, operation the following:
for the left slave arm
31 – 32: Move arm away or toward the body
33 – 34: Swinging movement forward or back
35 – 36: Bending of Elbow up or down
37 – 38: Rotate joint above the elbow in the right or left hand direction 
40 – 41: Rotate wrist in the right or left hand direction 
42 – 43: Open or close the claw
for the right slave arm
44 – 45: Open or close the claw
Other buttons were added for the swiveling of the eyes and moving of the jaw.

The control arm of the master-slave unit pre-dates the harness used by the Disney Imagineers for their Audio-Animatronics by 10 years. Were they inspired by what they saw back then in MARS AND BEYOND (DISNEY, 1957)?

Mars & Beyond is an episode of Disneyland (The History and Future of Man and Space) which aired on December 4, 1957. It was directed by Ward Kimball & narrated by Paul Frees. This episode discusses the possibility of life on other planets, especially Mars. It begins with an introduction of Walt Disney & his robot friend Garco, who provide a brief overview.

1954 Ray Goertz Servo-Manipulator

The significance of this model is that the electrical connection rather than a mechanical connection allowed a much larger distance between the master and slave components.

Patent number: 2846084
Filing date: Jun 21, 1955
Issue date: Aug 1958 

1956 GE Yes Man 

An early, if not the first, master-slave manipulator to employ an Exoskeleton Master. (see post here)

1963 Rogers / Disney – Patent for Animating Apparatus

Wathel L. Rogers, Herbert B. Taylor, and Roger E. Broggie.

Patent number: 3277594 – Animating Apparatus (see here)
Filing date: Nov 1, 1963
Issue date: Oct 1966

Originally named General Electric Carousel of Progress, the show was personally created by Walt Disney for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. It played at Disneyland theme park in California from July 2, 1967 until September 9, 1973. The show next moved to Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida where it opened on January 15, 1975. In 1994, the show was rewritten and restaged with the new name Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress.

Wathel Rogers operating the "animating apparatus".

1963 Science & Mechanics – "Waldo" as master-slave manipulators

An early reference to "Waldo" as a Master-Slave Manipulator –  (Science & Mechanics Feb 1963). 

Some more "waldo" book references (from answers)

1957 R. Silverberg One-Way Journey World of Thousand Colors (1984) № 131: We make a good team on the waldoes.

  1969 A.C. Clarke 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) Discovery's extravehicular capsules or "space pods" were spheres about nine feet in diameter, and the operator sat behind a bay window which gave him a splendid view. The main rocket drive produced an acceleration of one-fifth of a gravity—just sufficient to hover on the Moon—while small attitude-control nozzles allowed for steering. From an area immediately beneath the bay window sprouted two sets of articulated metal arms or "waldoes," one for heavy duty, the other for delicate manipulation. There was also an extensible turret carrying a variety of power tools, such as screwdrivers, jack-hammers, saws, and drills. Space pods were not the most elegant means of transport devised by man, but they were absolutely essential for construction and maintenance work in vacuum. They were usually christened with feminine names, perhaps in recognition of the fact that their personalities were sometimes slightly unpredictable. Discovery's trio were Anna, Betty, and Clara.  Once he had put on his personal pressure suit—his last line of defense—and climbed inside the pod, Poole spent ten minutes carefully checking the controls. He burped the steering jets, flexed the waldoes, reconfirmed oxygen, fuel, power reserve.

1973 J. Tiptree, Jr. Girl Who Was Plugged In Screwtop/Girl Who Was Plugged In (1989) № 18: But Delphi is no robot. Call her a waldo if you must. The fact is she's just a girl, a real live girl with her brain in an unusual place.

1978 D.A. Stanwood Memory of Eva Ryker № 30: The bathyscaphs are both equipped with remote manipulators — the experts call them "Waldos" — for working under the extreme pressure.

1982 W. Gibson Burning Chrome T. Shippey Oxford Book of SF (1992) № 500: I was working late in the loft one night, shaving down a chip, my arm off and the little waldo jacked straight into the stump.

1987 T. Easton Analog SF/Sci. Fact (Sept.) № 165/1: In Pohl's case, the aliens are using humans as organic waldoes that permit them to meet and bargain for Earth's wealth, and the humans be damned.

1993 K.S. Robinson Red Mars (1993) № 373: We're like dwarves in a waldo […]. One of those really big waldo excavators. We're inside it and supposed to be moving a mountain, and instead of using the waldo capabilities we're leaning out of a window and digging with teaspoons.

1996 D. Pringle, et al. Ultimate Ency. of SF № 106/3: The climax comes when Ripley, clad in waldo-ized battle gear, takes on head-to-head the queen of the alien hive in a dazzling set-piece.

1990 – The Character Shop – WaldoTM

The USPTO has given the WALDO trademark serial number of 74090309. The current federal status of this trademark filing is REGISTERED AND RENEWED.
Filing Date:  8/22/1990
The WALDO trademark is filed in the category of Computer & Software Products & Electrical & Scientific Products . The description provided to the USPTO for WALDO is special effects equipment in the nature of an ergonomic telerobotic control device.

Waldo was a generic, commonly used term for puppet and animatronic control devices that was used by a variety of different companies and organizations including the Muppets until it was appropriated and registered as a trademark by the Character Shop, a California-based creature effects company. Because of this, while the use of waldo-like devices is widespread in puppetry and visual effects, The Character Shop is the only company in the United States permitted to use the name "Waldo" commercially for puppet control devices.

From –

The term was first used in a Robert Heinlein short story, which was about a disabled scientist named Waldo who managed to build devices that would amplify his strength. These "waldoes" went on to replicate bigger machines, and so on. At least that's the way I remember it happened. NASA scientists nicknamed some of their early telemetry systems "waldo", and when the rare telemetry device popped up, sometimes that caught the nickname.

"When we started pioneering the use of telemetric input devices for puppetry, we researched the name "Waldo" with the trademark registry. It had never been officially appropriated; no one had ever gone to market with telemetry devices, called them waldoes, and trademarked it. So, The Character Shop applied for and received the trademark for its line of input devices. Now, we've been accused of ripping Mr. Heinlein off; that's far from the case. We obtained the trademark with utter respect, and in an homage to Mr. Heinlein. Mr. Heinlein wrote a work of fiction, and a character in the story was named Waldo. One cannot copyright the name of a fictional character in literature, unless, perhaps it originates with the author. Mr. Heinlein was not intending to market telemetry devices, he was writing a science fiction story. So there was no need or reason for him to trademark the name. Just as Asimov popularized the term "robot", Mr. Heinlein has an inspirational claim to the term."

Comment: RH Dec 2010 – regarding Trade Marking the word "Waldo", I feel that The Creature Shop have undergone some criticism over doing so. My initial reaction was similarly negative. However, the bigger concern is that a coined word in public use was able to be Trade Marked in the first place. Given that situation, it is more fitting that a company such as The Creature Shop has it, over another that may not be as appropriate or fitting at all.

My personal feeling is that , like some patents, one should get the credit for whatever it is, then put it in the public domain. I don't know how you would do that for Trade Marks. I know in the .com era things went crazy over common words, symbols, etc that could be and were Trade Marked. Sometimes common sense doesn't prevail.

Cover by Hubert Rogers.

"Amazing Stories" September 1952 cover by Walter Robert Popp showing Mechanical Master-Slave Manipulators.. Story by Paul W. Fairman.