TOKYO – Barack Obama Thursday came face to face with Japan’s newest sporting phenomenon — an eerily realistic humanoid robot which can run, jump and enjoy a kickaround with the president of the United States.
The US leader marvelled at ASIMO, a robot developed by Honda, as he highlighted Japanese technology and the potential for joint projects with US universities and firms on the first full day of his Asian tour.
He encountered ASIMO, a robot which is about the size of a 10-year-old child in an astronaut suit, as he toured the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.
“It’s nice to meet you,” the robot cheerily hailed Obama, prompting the amused president to reply “It’s nice to meet you too.”
ASIMO then went through its paces for the president, showing off its realistic but somewhat spooky range of movements, before telling the US leader in its metallic voice: “I can kick a soccer ball too.”
“OK, come on then,” Obama said, bracing for a pass as the robot backed off to line up his shot before coming in and delivering a sharp kick, sending the ball towards Obama. He deftly controlled it with a shiny dress shoe.
“How about that? That was pretty impressive,” Obama said, before the robot showed off its newest trick — jumping around the room.
Moments later, talking to students, Obama admitted: “I have to say the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike.”
ASIMO is the latest prototype in a 20-year project by Honda to develop a humanoid robot that can be used as an aid for elderly people or to perform tasks hazardous to humans, like fighting fires or cleaning toxic spills.
According to the Honda website, the robot, controlled by a laptop computer over a wireless network, can climb stairs and grasp objects and is the first such machine that can actually run like a human.