Heinlein's Giant Waldo Comes To Life

In his 1942 classic Waldo, Robert Heinlein describes telefactoring devices for the first time:

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.


(Giant robotic hand from Robodock 2007)

It turns out that clever engineers have brought Heinlein's giant waldo to life. At the Robodock 2007 junkyard technology festival, a team from Robochrist Industries worked two weeks to create an enormous robotic hand.

This huge hydraulic appendage is controlled using a custom-built armature that fits around the operator's arm; in other words, as the operator moves his hand and arm, the giant hand mimics his actions. As you can see in the picture above, the giant robotic hand can crush a car.

Waldo F. Jones would have liked it.

Via Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/9/2007)

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