Posts Tagged ‘waldoes’

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.
Source: POPULAR MECHANICS, OCTOBER 1951


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.