Obama spooked by lifelike robots during tour of Japan innovation museum
By Darlene Superville and Mari Yamaguchi ,AP
April 25, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
TOKYO--The voice was slightly halting, childlike. "Welcome to Miraikan, Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you."
U.S. President Barack Obama bowed, looking delighted.
His greeter, after all, was a 55-inch-tall, give or take, humanoid robot with the look of a diminutive Star Wars storm trooper.
"It's nice to meet you, too," Obama said, pausing to watch the robot, named ASIMO, perform during a tour of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
Asimo, made by Honda, announced "I can really run fast" before loping toward a soccer ball and informing Obama, "I can kick a soccer ball, too."
The robot delivered a well-aimed ball at Obama who trapped it neatly with his foot. For its final demonstration, the robot declared, "Recently I have learned how to jump." It then proceeded to hop, first on one foot, then on two.
Curious, Obama asked Mamoru Mohri, chief executive director of Miraikasn, whether the robot was remote controlled. Yes, Mohri replied, but the robot can act autonomously, too.
Obama also witnessed demonstrations by other robots.
"I have to say the robots were a little scary," he said afterward. "They were too life-like."
Sympathy for the Abducted
After holding a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama met with the three relatives of two Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea.
At the news conference, Obama said the United States stood with Japan in seeking to resolve such North Korean kidnappings.
Later, the relatives said Obama, as father of two daughters, showed empathy over the kidnapping of their loved ones. He said he would do his utmost to resolve the problem, possibly by adopting a U.N. Security Council resolution to pressure the North.
As father of two teenage daughters, Obama seemed particularly empathetic to Sakie Yokota, 78, whose daughter Megumi was kidnapped by North Korean agents 37 years ago when she was only 13. Yokota said Obama carefully looked at the pictures she brought and seemed to understand the pain of waiting such a long time.
"President Obama said it's not just another political or human rights issue. He said he cannot tolerate this problem as a human being and a father," Yokota told reporters after the meeting. "He reassured us that he would give us a firm support to resolve the problem."