Obama is back from his four-country economic and goodwill tour of Asia, a tour that conspicuously did not include China.
Though some suspicions die hard, his visits in India, and particularly in Muslim-dominated Indonesia, were successful in relationship building, security, and progress. “What brought people to applause was not what he said about democracy and Islam, but the reminder that our countries have many similarities,” said Kurie Suditomo, Indonesian representative for the US-Indonesia Society.
South Korea, however, was a bit painful as America’s economic woes in comparison to China’s large economy partly resulted in failure to complete a free-trade treaty in South Korea. Lee Chang-choon, a former South Korean ambassador, said the meetings lacked substance and Obama had lost influence since the midterm elections. “He is counting down to his last days.”
Japan offered praise to Obama as the Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanked him for “constantly standing by Japan’s side.” As Obama reciprocated in public the friendly exchange of words, China, no doubt, was watching with interest. The U.S. despite the regional chink in armor is still militarily engaged in Northeast Asia, and Japan is a very important ally to counterbalance a rising China.
While on a detour from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Obama took advantage of Japan’s cheery willingness to show off its transcendent position in robotics.
He first met three Japanese robots, one of which was the songstress HRP-4C. Fascinating and very eerie.
Obama was also introduced to Paro, a therapeutic baby robo-harp seal. Sweet, cuddly, and delightful, Paro brings a calming effect to hospital and nursing home patients.
Designed by Takanori Shibata, Paro is based on harp seals Shibata saw in Canada, where he also recorded their cries that Paro uses to make it sound like a real baby seal. It has tactile sensors which allow response to petting by moving its tail and opening and closing its eyes. It also responds to sounds. Paro can even imitate emotions such as surprise, joy, and anger.
The I-REAL, Toyota’s personal mobility concept car, is part of Japan’s “Harmonious Drive–a new tomorrow for people and the planet” idea. It is made of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic, has no steering wheel but instead employs operating controls in the side arm rests, and can speed up to 18.6 miles per hour.
A special feature of the I-REAL is the monitoring sensor which can detect a possible collision. To avoid such, the driver is alerted with noise and vibrating and also, at the same time, people around are aware of its movements through “pleasant use” of light and sound.
Treated to hands-on experience with the I-REAL, Obama was cautious and cool; and he managed to show a polite interest.
Toyota’s futuristic tricycle, click here.
Video, an “Asian” question.
Yakima’s apple-producing sister city in Japan is Itayangi. Itayanagi is a small city of about 25,000 people in the northern Japanese province of Amori-ken