PETRA glides through the museum

A new female robot has taken up service at the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum. Her name is PETRA. She moves independently across the first floor of the museum, guiding visitors to selected objects and informing them there of all kinds of interesting information with a clearly intelligible electronic voice. Providing information is not her only strength, however. She also addresses the needs of very young museum visitors, playing hide-and-seek with them in the exhibition.

PETRA is a sister to PETER, who has been scooting around one floor further up since July 2013 (the name is an acronym from a German phrase meaning Paderborn's first super narrator robot.

While PETER focuses on explaining computers, the Internet and mobile phones, PETRA specialises in aspects of the mechanical era. This is why the museum curators have given her a special outfit. Steampunk is a particular fashion style originating in a UK subculture that combines elements of the 19th century with the computer age. The result is a highly modern electronic robot with mechanical cogwheels, a top hat, corset and elegant golden spectacles.

Both robots were constructed by MetraLabs, a company in Thuringia. Lasers, cameras and touch-sensitive sensors help the robots to manoeuvre around people and to stop in time. PETRA and PETER find their own way around. The floor plan of the museum was fed into their memories by hand, while metal strips ensure that they do not accidentally fall down the stairs.

Their battery charge lasts for one full working day. At the end of the day, the robots move to their charging station to obtain a new supply of energy for another day at the museum.