The technology at the White House Frontiers Conference on Thursday was out of “a science fiction movie,” President Barack Obama said.
But then he remembered where he was.
“Here’s the thing about Pittsburgh: This kinda stuff is really nothing new,” he said during his speech at the conference.
The one-day event at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh was all about the future, from health care to self-driving cars and humans on Mars.
Once it was over and Obama left the Steel City — but not before recording a skit with Stephen Colbert of “The Late Show,” according to Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — we took a look at as much of the coverage as we could find. These were the highlights.
Nathan Copeland took center stage
Copeland, 30, of Dunbar, Pa. is a man with quadriplegia who, thanks to research at Pitt, uses his mind to control a robotic arm.
Just let that sink in.
Plus, he can feel through it. Copeland described the feeling through the arm to Wes Venteicher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
There’s tingling. There’s a kind of warmth, Copeland said, like “a shot of vodka, that warm but not like holding-a-cup-of-coffee warm.”
Obama met Copeland and the pair shook hands — and fist bumped.
“I couldn’t be prouder of all of you,” Obama said, Amy Ellis Nutt reported in The Washington Post.
The president congratulated the University of Pittsburgh researchers” and told them “what a story,” according to Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press.
Jared Stonesifer of The Times added this:
It was amazing enough the man could even lift his arm to shake the hand of the president of the United States. It was something else all together that the man could feel Obama’s handshake through a robotic prosthetic.
In his speech, Obama mentioned Copland and their handshake: “He had a strong grip, but he toned it down.”
Obama’s not-so-subtle jabs at other politicians
He didn’t name names, but he didn’t have to. Obama went after politicians who deny climate change and cut research funding during his Thursday afternoon speech and a panel that followed on brain science and medical information.
“I get so riled up when I hear people willfully ignore facts,” Obama said in his speech while adding that Americans didn’t deny Sputnik when the Russians got to space first.
Instead, Americans just beat them to the moon, he said.
WIRED‘s Davey Alba pointed out POTUS’s subtlety.
Though he didn’t mention him by name, Obama was clearly undercutting GOP candidate Donald Trump, who in this election season has so often pushed ideas that reflect the reality he wants to live in — science be damned.
Maybe he took a cue from FLOTUS, who railed against Donald Trump on Thursday … without naming him. Also worth noting that Obama is the guest editor of WIRED’s November issue which is frontiers-themed.
And Anita Balakrishnan of CNBC, among others, reported something similar.
Amid a contentious presidential race, U.S. president Barack Obama called out political rivals that seek to cut scientific funding on Thursday.
Also not subtle: Obama’s self-proclaimed geek status
Near the beginning of his speech Thursday, Obama had this to say: “I am a science geek. I am a nerd, and I don’t make any apologies for it. It’s cool stuff.”
And that’s all it took for comments and headlines on POTUS’s geekdom.
Alfred Ng and Marguerite Reardon of CNET reported the president is a “self-proclaimed trekkie” and added this:
It’s no secret Obama, who some have called the most tech-savvy president since Thomas Jefferson, is a fan of gadgets and technology. In fact, the president also referred to himself as a “science geek.”
And, of course, Geekwire was all over the president’s description, and Alan Boyle noted that the president “geeked out big time.”
President Barack Obama stated the obvious today during what almost sounded like a farewell address to the tech community he loves.
And what did everyone think of Pittsburgh?
While you’ve heard most if it before, coverage of the conference included some quotes and descriptions of Pittsburgh’s steel-to-tech journey, including those by Obama.
“Pittsburgh has been revitalizing itself through technology for a very long time,” Obama said in his speech.
He said the city has groundbreaking medical research, world class universities, investments in young people and is the “birthplace of some of the most advanced artificial intelligence and robotics systems the world has ever seen.”
“That’s how this city came back after an iconic industry fell on tougher times, doubling down on science, doubling down on tech, doubling down on innovation,” Obama said. “All of which can create amazing new jobs and opportunities.”
KDKA reported that Mayor Bill Peduto said the conference could help the city’s image and “will help to change that image once and for all from a rusty old city to a global innovation center.”
And Marissa Melton from Voice of America included this:
Pittsburgh, once seen as an industrial metropolis in decline, has forged a new reputation as a hub for technological innovation, particularly robotics. Despite cold, rainy weather, a conference focused on science and a visit by the president generated excitement on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, where the conference was held.