President Obama Challenges Japanese Robot to Soccer Game

updated 04/24/2014 at 10:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/24/2014 01:45PM

The voice was slightly halting, childlike. "Welcome to Miraikan, Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you."

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 stormtrooper.

"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.



Despite Obama's background in constitutional law, there's a presidential geek side to him that always seems charmed, if not bemused, by technological advances.

President Obama Challenges Japanese Robot to Soccer Game| Barack Obama

President Barack Obama greets ASIMO the robot

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Asimo, made by Honda, announced that "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 Miraikan, whether the robot was remote controlled. Yes, Mohri replied, but the robot can act autonomously, too.

Obama also witnessed demonstrations by other robots, including one designed by Japanese technicians and partially financed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that was developed to help with disaster response.

"I have to say, the robots were a little scary," he said afterward. "They were too lifelike."


President Obama Challenges Japanese Robot to Soccer Game| Barack Obama, Individual Class

President Obama and Pope Francis, becoming friends for life

Gabriel Bouys / EPA



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