President Obama meets HRP-4C, created by a team led by Dr. Kazuhito Yokoi [right] at AIST.
At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which this year took place in Yokohama, Japan, U.S. President Barack Obama met not only diplomats, heads of state, and world leaders—he also met several robots.
Before walking into a meeting, Obama was greeted by HRP-4C, the female humanoid robot created at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, or AIST. The android talked and gestured enthusiastically, but this time it didn’t show off its dance moves.
Next, the robotic baby seal Paro, also invented at AIST, made an appearance. Dr. Takanori Shibata, the creator of Paro, told the president that the robot is used as a therapeutical device in hospitals, and Obama gave the squealing furry creature a good caress.
Obama pets Paro the robot seal, created by Dr. Takanori Shibata [right] from AIST.
Then it was time for a ride on what appears to be the latest version of Toyota’s i-REAL personal mobility vehicle. Well, it wasn’t much of a ride. Obama drove an inch forward, but when the machine suddenly tilted back the president almost jumped out of it. “That’s what we’re going to be driving,” he quipped.
Obama is not the first U.S. president to meet a humanoid robot. In 2005, Albert HUBO, the Korean humanoid that features an Albert Einstein head, shook hands with President George W. Bush, who seemed fearless despite the robot’s odd looks and a previous incident with robotic technologies.
Obama sits on Toyota’s i-REAL, a futuristic personal mobility vehicle.
Here’s the video showing various heads of state—Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China, Chile’s Sebastián Piñera (famous after the trapped miners incident), among others—interacting with the Japanese technologies:
Images: APEC; video: NECN
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.