Robot cleaner Franzi makes sure the floors in the Munich hospital where he works are clean and has taken on a new role during the pandemic: cheering patients and staff.
“Can you move, please? I have to clean ”, shouts a robot rather chatty (in German of course) when people block her pre-planned cleaning path.
“You have to move! I really want to clean! " yells at those who still don't get out of the way. And if that doesn't work, copious digital tears start flowing from its bright LED eyes.
Surrogate of humanity
“Visitors are not allowed due to a pandemic, so Franzi keeps the patients a little company,” he says Constance Rettler dell 'company of the same name. Rettler is in fact responsible for cleaning the hospital in Neuperlach, and has provided the talkative robot that cleans and "entertains".
When she is not busy babbling, Franzi moves around the clinic lobby three times a day. His "feet" automatically wash the floors. Amused patients take pictures of her, some even stop to chat with the talkative machine about a meter high.
"Ah, there you are my friend," shouts an old lady with an IV on her arm seeing Franzi.
“One of our recent patients came three times a day to talk to her,” he smiles Tanja Zacherl, who oversees the maintenance of the hospital.
A talkative extra employee
Created by a company in Singapore, Franzi was originally called Ella and spoke English before arriving in Munich earlier this year.
Franzi can express frustration by shedding tears from her LED eyes
Yet his German is perfect (otherwise what talkative robot would that be?) As he tells his interviewers that he "would never want to grow up" and that cleaning is his passion.
Here it is at work (video in German).
When required, he can also sing classic German pop songs and even rap.
Rettler firmly believes that the robot is not taking jobs away from real humans, but that it can "support" its real-life colleagues, and possibly complement the staff shortages caused by the coronavirus.
With the pandemic, there is a lot of extra disinfection work to be done in hospitals. While Franzi cleans the floors, our employees can focus on the health aspectsConstance Rettler
However, the robot still has its limitations. She is still unable to enter tight corners and, if she hits an obstacle, she bursts into tears and freezes until she is rescued by a human.
Despite these problems, Franzi also has a reason to be cheerful. After a test phase lasting several weeks, the talkative machine appears to have settled in the hospital in Neuperlach.