Being the president of the United States has its privileges. One of the more obscure perks is the chance to pet a large robotic giraffe on your lawn. That's what President Barack Obama did Wednesday during the White House Maker Faire, a first-ever event celebrating science, engineering, math, technology, and the DIY maker spirit.
Held at the White House itself, the fair featured an unusual robot guest, a giraffe named Russell. The life-size creation is 17 feet tall with a place for people to ride that is 8 feet off the ground. It's powered by a 12-horsepower propane engine that spins generators to charge the beast's batteries to run an electric motor to power movements. Fins on the head can be stroked to activate the giraffe to speak in a voice with a British accent. It runs a custom artificial intelligence program that lets it respond to people in an interactive manner.
It should come as no surprise that Lindsay Lawlor, the maker behind the giraffe, came up with the idea as a project for the Burning Man arts festival, a noted hotbed for creative DIY activities, including large robotic projects.
The giraffe was such a hit that the official Instagram account of the White House posted a photo of the creature along with the message "Spotted on the South Lawn: A robotic giraffe named Russell. Check out all the amazing projects from today's first-ever Maker Faire → wh.gov/makerfaire#NationOfMakers." The post has generated nearly 5,000 "likes."
The Washington Free Beacon posted a video of the president's encounter with the robo-creature. Obama greeted it with the statement, "I like those ears!" He pet its nose and scritched the underside of its chin. This event would be a great kickoff to a buddy flick. It could be called "Obama & Giraffe" and be a cross between "Wall-E," "Fierce Creatures," "The America President," and "Turner & Hooch." That's an elevator pitch that should get noticed in Hollywood.