Swingin' and Swayin' Ray Charles Doll
(Design Integrity / Showtime enterprises)

Cosmodog had done some work for Design Integrity, an industrial design firm in Chicago, so when Design Integrity was asked to create an animated Ray Charles doll they turned to Cosmodog for the electronics. We designed all of the circuitry in the doll and wrote all of the software (this is in sharp contrast to our work with BMT, where the involvement ends with the prototype).

The makers of this toy were understandably very concerned about the quality of the sound. Balancing the need for the best possible sound against very tight cost constraints is not an easy trick, and a good portion of the development time was spent trying to improve the audio compression to get the best possible sound without spending too much on memory. It reached the point where everything was okay except for the beginning of "What'd I Say", where Ray is singing unaccompanied. We wound up leaving the first few seconds of the song uncompressed. When the music kicks in it seamlessly switches to compression.

Little Ray won an award in May of 2003! Here's the write-up from Appliance Manufacturer Magazine:

Winner - Leisure Appliances
Ray Charles Animatronic Doll ("Little Ray") by Pro Source, Hong Kong and industrial design firm Beyond Design, Chicago, and its strategic partner, Design Integrity, Chicago.

From the hand-sculpted head and hands to the proportionate body to Ray Charles's signature moves, such as swaying side to side and lifting his hand at the end of the song, this animatronic doll captures the essence of the performer in terms of both aesthetics and movement using animatronics and integrated sound chips. What makes the design even more special is that the prototype, complete with movement, had to be presented to Walgreen's management and Ray Charles himself in just 30 days.

"This doll shows an uncanny resemblance to the artist and to his physical movements, and is an exceptional design and engineering accomplishment" said judge Ron Kemnitzer. "It's impossible to not smile when this product is in action."

Key project players from Beyond Design: Michael D. Prince, president. From Design Integrity: Philip Anthony, president.

Little Ray's official web site: www.raycharlesdoll.com