A German hospital has introduced a cleaning robot Franzi to help clean and cheers up patients and health personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Franzi has been entrusted with cleaning the floors at Munich’s Neuperlach Hospital, but it also has the ability to talk, tell jokes and even sing.
“Can you move out the way, please? I need to clean,” says the machine in a high-pitched German voice when people block its pre-programmed cleaning route. “You need to move! I really want to clean!” it 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-light eyes.
Franzi walks through the hospital’s entrance hall three times a day to clean up. Its feet can automatically mop the floors for 10 hours on a single charge. It receives commands by smartphone and only uses 0.21 gallons of water per hour. When required, a meter-high robot can also sing classic German pop songs and even rap.
“Visitors are not allowed in the pandemic, so Franzi entertains the patients a bit,” says Constance Rettler of Dr. Rettler, the company in charge of cleaning the Neuperlach hospital.
Created by a company in Singapore, Franzi was originally called Ella and spoke English before arriving in Munich earlier this year.
To those who fear that Franzi will steal the job of several people, Rettler says that the robot is designed to support its flesh-and-blood 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, the human employees can focus on doing that.
However, the robot still has its limitations. It is not yet able to get into tight corners and, if it hits an obstacle, it bursts into tears and freezes until it 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 Neuperlach Hospital.