The WALDO ®


Waldo®: TCS' trademark for its brand of ergonomic-gonio-kineti-telemetric input devices for controlling its puppets and animatronics. Ergonomic because it is engineered to fit a puppeteer's or performer's body (and/or head and/or face) and comfortably allow a wide range of physical freedom. Gonio- and kineti-metric because it measures the angle and movement of the wearer's joints and limbs. And telemetric because the movement data is measured and sent via remote control. In simpler terms, an electro-mechanical rig you wear that makes a puppet (whether actually three dimensional or a CGI "electronic puppet") mimic your movements.

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. NASA scientists nicknamed some of their early telemetry systems "waldo", and when the rare telemetry device popped up, sometimes that caught the nickname.

The appeal of the Waldo® is that it allows any single puppeteer or performer to control many multiple axes of movement on a synthetic character. In the "old days", people just threw a team of "lever pullers" on a puppet; look at old pictures of the crew that was required to operate E.T.; quite a crowd! The problem with that, aside from the expense, is that you've got too many individuals trying to coordinate their manipulations and timing into a unified performance; the more people involved, the more difficult it is. Even multiple-axis joysticks don't address the problem fully; if the control axes are not mapped out in a anthropomorphically analogous pattern, the most a single puppeteer can really control with each arm is about 4 axes, versus 12 per arm in a good Waldo®. In the case of the Facial Waldo®, many expression and head movements that previously were operated by hand are finally relegated to where they belong; the performer's face and head! This leaves his or her hands free to operate even more, analogous points of movement. Our system allows the reduction of the puppeteer team to its' basic core; this becomes even more important as today's animatronic characters become jam-packed with additional features that need controlling.

Our Waldoes® are designed to meet any number of criteria; they are often composed of machined plastic and metal joints, leather, and nylon strapping. They can employ linear or rotary potentiometers or encoders, Polhemus®, optical, angular, and other sensors. Each is custom-made for a particular purpose. Our expertise in the field is why companies such as Rhythm and Hues, P.D.I., and Walt Disney Imagineering have subcontracted our services to build their performance animation Waldoes®.


Select any photo to view a larger version.

Veg Head Facial Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 65 kb) 2 kb  (Full size 80 kb) Here are two pictures of our first complete Facial Waldo®. The mouth, lips, mustache, smiles, cheeks, and brows on this animatronic vegetable man were controlled by the sensors of the Facial Waldo®

 

 

 

Buffalo Leg Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 37 kb) A polypropylene armature with rotary and linear potentiometers, used to actuate the front legs of our giant 8 foot tall animatronic buffalo in Radio Flyer. The top bar is adjustable, allowing the creature to paw at a virtual "floor"; or adjust its amount of contact with same.

Arm Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 63 kb) A very anthropomorphic Waldo® and a servo-powered animatronic arm, having three-axis shoulder, elbow, wrist twist, and individual finger and thumb movements. Used initially on a "robot" for the kid's movie And You Thought YOUR Parents Were Weird. Also featured on an Arrowhead water commercial, as well as Movie Magic's Creature Articulation episode.

 

Hand Puppet Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 25 kb) Designed to be operated by puppeteers who are more comfortable with "hand-in-a-sock" style manipulation, this device offered sensors for dual-axis jaw , head up/down, side/side, and twist, body left/right and forward/ back. Featured robust joints and adjustable shock-absorbed stops on each extreme of every axis. Commissioned by Disney for programming their animatronic figures.

 

 

Dual Arm Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 58 kb) 2 kb  (Full size 74 kb) After creating the above Waldo® for head and body control, we were commissioned by Disney to design and manufacture a robust, adjustable dual-arm input device. Again, featured robust joints and adjustable shock-absorbed stops on each extreme of every axis, and an incredible range and freedom of movement. Includes elbow, wrist twist and bend, and 3-axis shoulder.

 

 

Elephant Head Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 36 kb) This is the Waldo® we built to animate our animatronic elephants for Operation Dumbo Drop. This could be hard-wired for direct, spontaneous control, or the signals could be input into a programmable record/playback system. Once again, robust construction and adjustable, shock absorbing stops were used. Functions controlled on a one-to-one basis include head up/down, side/side, rotate, trunk base up/down, mid-trunk up/down, side/side, and trunk end up/down, side/side, for a total of 8 axes that could be manipulated by a single puppeteer.

SimGraphics Facial Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 43 kb) 2 kb  (Full size 53 kb) Here are two pictures of two generations of the Facial Waldo® specifically for computer simulation company SimGraphics. Designed to be lightweight and adjustable for a wide range of wearers, these featured sensors for detecting movement at multiple simultaneous points of the brows, cheeks, lips, and jaw.

 

Frog Ghost Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 60 kb) For Ghostbusters II, we built a Waldo® that served to control both our Theater Ghost and the Frog Ghost, shown above. A relatively simple version, this device allowed for brow and jaw control, with blinks and eye movements provided by joystick.

PDI Upper Body Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 65 kb)Commissioned by CGI house PDI, this was an ambitious upper-body input device, made primarily of plastic for light weight and to reduce the interference problems with Polhemus® sensors. Mechanical joints and sensors allowed for accurate input of 3 axis head, 2 axis each shoulder, body tilt, twist, and bend, elbow, wrist twist and bend, and 3-axis shoulder.

 

Warrior Waldo®
2 kb  (Full size 42 kb) 2 kb  (Full size 57 kb)Here are two pictures of our prototype for a consumer-level full-body Waldo®, intended for either location-based virtual reality centers, or home use on Nintendo®, Xbox®, or Playstation® consoles. We can provide design engineering, research, and name licensing. C'mon, isn't Warrior Waldo® kinda catchy?.

 

 


®

That's right! Waldo®, Facial Waldo®, Body Waldo®, Warrior Waldo® , and any use of the term Waldo when referring to data-capture input devices are all trademarks of The Character Shop. You can make use of a Waldo®-like system, but you can't call it a Waldo®!
So call it something else, please! Who wants to spend money on lawyers?

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.

All other products mentioned are trademarks or registered trademarks of their holders.

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