March 24, 2013

US President Barack Obama’s quick trip to Israel was a great success for the local high-tech industry. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was beaming as he showed Obama some of Israel’s most exciting products of the future in a special exhibition, “Israeli Technology for a Better World.”

The American president was shown ReWalk’s external skeleton that enables paraplegics to walk, Mobileye’s Advanced Driver Assistance System, Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery designed for electric vehicles, a robot ‘butler’ designed to help the disabled, a search-and-rescue snake robot, and two brain-focused technologies – MinDesktop’s thought-controlled computer for the disabled and ElMindA’s Brain Network Activation technology.

In fact, in his speech in Jerusalem, Obama said: “If people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv — home to hundreds of startups and research centers.”

While touring the display of high-tech at the Israel Museum, Obama readily gave accolades to the researchers and scientists behind the technologies, calling the exhibition ‘inspiring.’

Upon viewing MinDestkop, a hands-free, thought-controlled computer developed by three Ben-Gurion University graduate students, Obama reportedly told Netanyahu that “these guys have deeper thoughts probably than the two of us.”

Obama called another BGU invention, ElMindA, which has worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers on preventing concussions, a “great idea.”

“Today, we were stars, and it is so incredibly gratifying to be able to present two examples of the cutting-edge technology being developed and commercialized by BGU,” says Doron Krakow, executive vice president, American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev based in New York City. “We are proud of the two groups from ElmindA and MinDesktop who are fulfilling Ben-Gurion University’s mission to develop technologies that are helping people in Israel, in the United States and around the world.”

When the president saw Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery, designed to give electric vehicles more endurance, Times of Israel reported that he told Netanyahu, “You need to talk to the board of GM.”

Obama was amazed by the snake robot, which when used in the body, cuts down on open-heart surgery. While he called it “remarkable,” he also said, “my wife really wouldn’t like that,” about the snake shape.

But perhaps the most memorable moment of the exhibition was the bear hug Obama gave to Theresa Hannigan, a paralyzed retired US Army sergeant from Long Island, who showed him how the ReWalk has improved her life.

“He said ‘Oh,’ and that’s when he came over and hugged me,” said the delighted vet. “I thought: ‘Oh my God, the President of the United States gets it and he’s hugging me.’ He just came right at me and gave me a bear hug like your father would give you,” she told the NY Daily News.

Obama also remarked to Netanyahu that the quasi-robotic ambulation designed to help people with paralysis walk could have helped his father-in-law.

“Michelle’s father had MS and used crutches until he was about 45 or 50, then got a wheelchair,” Obama said.

“This would have given him a different life,” Netanyahu answered.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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