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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 February 2021

Cleaning robot entertains patients and staff at German hospital

As well as disinfecting floors, Franzi can sing classic German pop songs and even rap

Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany. AFP
Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany. AFP

A Munich hospital introduced a cleaning robot named Franzi that not only ensures the floors are spotless, but also cheers up patients and staff during the pandemic.

"Can you move out the way, please? I need to clean," trills the robot in German, when people block her pre-programmed cleaning route.

"You need to move! I really want to clean!" she squeaks at those who still do not get out of the way. And if that fails, digital tears begin to stream from her LED-light eyes.

"Visitors are not allowed during the pandemic, so Franzi entertains the patients a bit," said Constance Rettler of Dr Rettler, the company in charge of cleaning Neuperlach hospital, which provided the robot.

Three times a day, Franzi bustles through the clinic's entrance hall, her feet automatically mopping the floors. Amused patients take photos of her, and some even stop to chat to the metre-high robot.

"Ah, there you are my friend," said one elderly lady with a drip in her arm upon catching sight of Franzi.

"One of our recent patients came down three times a day to talk to her," said Tanja Zacherl, who oversees hospital maintenance.

Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany. AFP
Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany, on February 12.  AFP

Created by a company in Singapore, Franzi was originally named Ella and spoke English before coming to Munich this year.

Yet her German is perfect as she tells her interviewers that she "never wants to grow up" and that cleaning is her passion.

When prompted, she can also sing classic German pop songs and even rap.

Ms Rettler said the robot is not taking jobs away from real human beings, instead she is used to support her flesh-and-blood colleagues, who have become harder to recruit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany. AFP
Cleaning robot 'Franzi' cleans in the entrance area of a hospital in Munich Neuperlach, southern Germany, on February 12. AFP

"With the pandemic, there is lots of extra disinfecting work to be done in hospitals," Ms Rettler said. "While Franzi is cleaning the floors, our employees can concentrate on doing that."

After a test phase of several weeks, she appears to have settled in at the Neuperlach hospital and Ms Rettler's company has decided to keep her there permanently rather than use her elsewhere.

Updated: February 19, 2021 03:34 PM

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