Disassembly Facility, in Area 25 of the Nevada Man the manipulator pdf Site. The purpose of such a device is usually to move or manipulate hazardous materials for reasons of safety, similar to the operation and play of a claw crane game. 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.
Heinlein claimed a much earlier origin for remote manipulators. Look up waldo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Remote manipulators.