Interface Puppet is a wireless input device for controlling a virtual character by manipulating a real plush toy. Very cost-effective. No articulation joints, no accelerometers, no cameras.


Children play dolls, plush hippos and plastic transformers. Children play computer games. Children watch cartoons and 3D-movies identifying themselves with movie characters. Tying all these activities together inevitably comes to mind. Thats what is evidently seen in popular Disney-Pixar Toy Stories movie and a number of similar stories released before.

Interface Puppet is the next important step in this direction. The method is especially suitable for little children as it completely eliminates too abstract conventional controls. A child holds an interface puppet (say, Pinocchio) in his/her hands and manipulates the puppet in a manner it is usually played. And virtual Pinocchio displayed on the screen makes the same motions. The puppet walks and the screen character walks; the puppet meets another puppet and embraces it and the screen characters embrace one another.

There are no wires, no buttons, no cameras and no sensor pads. An interface puppet serves as the only and sufficient means for controlling a virtual character and/or toy robot in a computer game, educational program or any kind of on-line activity. The spirit of Toy Stories thirsted to be embodied knocks at the door. Interface Puppet blows the door open.


The inspiring impulse for developing the technology was given by Charlie Chaplins brilliant Table Ballet (Roll Dance) from The Gold Rush movie. If Charlie held a doll in his hands, the doll containing some microelectronic means, its dance might be wirelessly transmitted to a computer. And the computer program might reproduce the same dance displaying it with a virtual character on the screen.

The technology developed by Totemic Inventions supports detection of a coordinate position of the distant point of any moving part of a toy (limb, tail, head etc.) accurate within 1cm in real time. No articulated joints are required for detecting limbs segments motion (coordinate position). No accelerometers are used for detecting limbs motion.

Built-in sensor system detects as well toys body inclinations, jumps and rotations. It looks like motion capture for dolls and toy robots yet without any external detectors.

Moreover, the sensor system may be distributed between moving parts of different toys. In this case one robotic dino toy running after another one may detect the pursued dinos tail position and catch it with its jaws.


Actually, Interface Puppet is a prototype for simple and very cost-effective non-optical motion capture alternative. For animating a virtual character user can either manipulate an input doll equipped with very cheap built-in Toytemic sensors or perform gestures using wearable accessories containing such sensors. Coordinate positions of the sensors are transmitted to a computer, calculated and converted into motion trajectories of moving body and limbs of a character.

The system can be used for small and home animation studios and a number of related applications, for example:

  • controlling on-line avatar (dancing, dressing-up, fighting)
  • combined joystick for playing action games
  • video-karaoke

Advantages for this motion capture alternative are as follows:

  • low cost (production costs for electronics set for simple Interface Puppet wont exceed $10 or even lower)
  • naturalness and ease of use (animator needs just a doll and his/her own hands; it allows children to play and be creative instead of the computer doing everything for them; also an adult could use this to tell a story to children at story time)
  • expressiveness (classical optical motion capture involves a human actor; no human is able to twist or knot his own body in the same manner as it can be done with a plush toy).
  • scalability (the same technology is applicable to on-line games, mannequins for mass entertainment, interacting robots, medical musculoskeletal diagnostic systems etc.)

Different software packages will be required for different applications. The hardware (sensors and transmitters) is almost the same.

contact@toytemic.com, Business Incubator of the Academy of National Economy, Vernadskogo prospect, 82, 119571, Moscow, Russia, Phone:+7 495 933 81 87