A remote manipulator, also known as a telefactor, telemanipulator, or waldo (after the short story "Waldo" by Robert A. Heinlein which features a man who invents and uses such devices), is a device which, through electronic, hydraulic, or mechanical linkages, allows a hand-like mechanism to be controlled by a human operator. The purpose of such a device is usually to move or manipulate hazardous materials for reasons of safety.
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In 1945, the company Central Research Laboratories was given the contract to develop a remote manipulator for the Argonne National Laboratory. The intent was to replace devices which manipulated highly radioactive materials from above a sealed chamber or hot cell, with a mechanism which operated through the side wall of the chamber, allowing a researcher to stand normally while working.
The result was the Master-Slave Manipulator Mk. 8, or MSM-8, which became the iconic remote manipulator seen in newsreels and movies, such as the Andromeda Strain or THX 1138.
Robert A. Heinlein claimed a much earlier origin for remote manipulators. 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."