Obama Met a Giant, Talking Robot Giraffe at the White House Today

The robotic animal that speaks with a British accent and can carry 30 people is just one oddity in a giraffe-centric news cycle this week.

President Obama and Lindsay Lawlor view Lawlor's robotic giraffe while viewing Maker Faire projects on the South Lawn of the White House on June 18.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
June 18, 2014, 8:28 a.m.

What’s 17 feet tall, weighs 2,200 pounds and has a Brit­ish ac­cent?

This ro­bot­ic gir­affe that Pres­id­ent Obama met at the White House on Wed­nes­day.

The gir­affe, cre­ated by Lind­say Lawlor of San Diego, was on the South Lawn as part of the first-ever Maker Faire, an in­nov­a­tions gath­er­ing of more than 100 “makers” from 25 states. Obama also viewed elec­tric gui­tars, a skate­board, a pros­thet­ic foot, slip­pers, a toy ro­bot, and vari­ous 3D print­ers, ac­cord­ing to pool re­ports.

The wheeled ro­bot­ic an­im­al, whose name is Rus­sell, is powered by a 12-horsepower hy­brid fuel-en­gine mo­tor.

It was op­er­ated by Rus­sell Pin­ning­ton, Lawlor’s pro­gram­mer, from in­side the White House. Lawlor named the gir­affe after Pin­ning­ton, who is Brit­ish, in­stead of pay­ing him for his work. The gir­affe can play mu­sic, carry up to 30 people, and speak.

Here’s video proof of their ex­change, cour­tesy of BuzzFeed’s An­drew Kaczyn­ski:

Todd Gill­man of the Dal­las Morn­ing News de­scribed the con­trap­tion in a pool re­port:

The neck and head un­du­lated slowly. The mouth opened and closed. The neck swayed gently side to side. Ears flapped. Horns were made from lava-lamp type things with sparkles in­side.

Lawlor offered the pres­id­ent a ride aboard his gir­affe, but Obama de­clined.

Obama did com­pli­ment Rus­sell’s ears.

This is the second news ap­pear­ance for gir­affes, real or ro­bot­ic, this week. On Monday, Delta Air Lines tweeted a photo meant to be cel­eb­rat­ory after Team USA’s win in the World Cup, fea­tur­ing a gir­affe to rep­res­ent Ghana, the los­ing coun­try. The photo was in­stead a huge mis­take, as there are no wild gir­affes in Ghana and, more im­port­antly, there’s a lot more to Ghana than its sup­posed wild­life.

The gir­affe news cycle could be worse, though. Re­mem­ber Mari­us?

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