That Time Obama Ordered A Mechanical Giraffe From Burning Man

November 21, 2014 | Rhett Jones

President Obama likes supporting innovators and creative Americans, so he decided he wanted to host a Maker Faire at the White House. The festival is a beloved event that brings together inventors and tinkerers from around the world. One of the most popular attractions at the fair has been Russell The Giraffe, an 18-foot tall interactive electric quadruped who speaks with a British accent. Being the president means demanding the best, and Obama wanted that giraffe.

Russell the Giraffe first made his debut at Burning Man, where his creator Lindsay Lawlor is a yearly participant. Lawlor speaks about his giant robot with a tremendous affection and seems to see Russell as a friend. In fact, the name Russell comes from Lawlor’s programmer pal, Russell Pinnington. Pinnington designed the brain for the Giraffe, which controls the lights, voice, and movements. For walking, Russell requires a remote control (no one wants an autonomous 18-foot robo-beast running around).

After an arduous journey moving the complex, one-ton mech-animal cross country from California to D.C., Lawlor arrived on the White House lawn ready to show off. Having no credentials to prove he should be there — with a giant box that could be anything — he told Makezine:

After a minor interrogation and a review by the Secret Service, an armored SUV sped into the yard and out hopped another agent, with guns, body armor, and god knows what else strapped to his chest and belt. He said he would escort me to the White House immediately.

When Obama finally arrived to inspect Lawlor’s pride and joy, the first thing he said was, “I like those ears.” After remarking on the British accent, Obama suggested ride it, but the Secret Service wouldn’t allow him to. Now that the world has been deprived of this special video op, we’ll have to settle for imagining the president atop a flashing giraffe-bot.

When Russell isn’t rubbing elbows with statesmen, he likes to rave. Check him out below.

(Photo: NASA)