1989: The Speech-Driven Robot

Photo montage: SAM arm closeup and engineers operating SAM via telephone. The Speech-Actuated Manipulator had one arm, two video cameras, eight computers, and could understand 300 billion sentences. Developed by M. Brown, B. Buntschuh, and J. Wilpon, SAM was the fruit of Bell Labs research into computer speech recognition and machine intelligence.

Commands were issued to SAM over a telephone. If SAM understood the command it would perform it; if SAM didn't it would ask the operator (in its own synthesized voice) to explain the operation and would then store this new knowledge for future reference.

SAM is seen as leading toward complex machines that can understand simple, every day language, such as automatic teller machines that can converse with customers and over-the-phone computer sales clerks. SAM devices may also one day be employed as machines that need to be issued commands orally, such as those that are involved in cleaning up hazardous wastes or that are deployed in deep space.