In 1989, this film was made about a 450-pound robot arm named SAM. SAM stood for "Speech Activated Manipulator," and was created at AT&T's Bell Laboratories by Jay Wilpon, Michael Brown, and Bruce Buntschuh (only Brown and Buntschuh appear in the film).
SAM had a number of sensors, and processed natural spoken language with a vocabulary of 97 words. Since the communications interface was via telephone, the possibilities at the time were immense: remote medical uses, robotic space arms, or avatars for jobs that might be too hazardous for a human to do. Brown and Buntschuh continued to work closely on other speech recognition projects at Bell Labs until at least 1996.
Jay Wilpon in 2013 is Executive Director of Language and Conversational Interactions Research at AT&T Labs; he's been with the company since 1977, and holds a (large) number of patents on pioneering speech recognition technologies. All three of SAM's creators are still working in the field of speech recognition technologies.
Producer: Lillian Schwartz. Schwartz, a computer and video artist, produced a large number of documentaries for Bell Laboratories and art projects from the Labs as an artist-in-residence.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ