Obama sees giraffe robot, talks ‘revolution’

Robotic giraffes, 3-D printed pancakes, and flying balloon cameras could usher in the next generation of American manufacturing, President Obama said Wednesday at the White House.

After touring the inaugural White House maker's faire — an exhibition for homegrown inventors working with emerging technologies — Obama said the projects he saw were "examples of a revolution that's taking place in American manufacturing, a revolution that can help us create new jobs and industries for decades to come."

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"Across our country, ordinary Americans are inventing incredible things, and then they're able to bring them to these faires like maker's faires, and you never know where this kind of enthusiasm and creativity and innovation could lead," Obama said.

Exhibits at the event included a giant 17-foot tall, 2,200-pound robotic giraffe that can carry up to 30 people and featured an artificial intelligence system that allowed him to interact with the president. One 3-D printer produced pancakes shaped like the president's face, while another produced a printed sculpture of Obama's State of the Union address.

"There could have been some edits right there in the middle," Obama quipped. "The sculpture clearly goes on too long."

Obama said the inventions gave him a sense "that we are at the dawn of something big."

"One of the professors who I had a chance to speak to as I was taking the tour described it as analogous to where we were with the Internet 25 to 30 years ago," Obama said. "In the same way that we were at that time reorganizing how we could use data and information, we are now at a point where we're going to be able to reorganize how we think about making things, and marrying the information revolution to what's been an analogue manufacturing system."

The president said in conjunction with the event, the administration would begin providing new support for startup inventors who wanted to file for a patent while giving grants to entrepreneurs looking to scale up their small businesses.

He also announced private sector commitments from companies including Indiegogo, Etsy, Disney, and Intel to help support inventors.

"We've got to make sure that more Americans have the skills and opportunities to land a job in a growing industry, or to create entirely new industries," Obama said.

The president did say he was concerned by one aspect of the maker's faire, however.

"Why is there an "E" at the end of 'faire'?" Obama asked. "I wasn't sure. Is there jousting? You know, do we all have to get dressed up, or what? So I'm just warning you, next year the ‘E’ may be gone… This is America. We don't have ‘E’s’ at the end of 'fair.'"