His name is PETER and he is one of the first robots to ply his trade in a German museum. PETER escorts visitors to the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum to selected exhibition areas and provides them with relevant information. PETER (Paderborn’s Erster Toller ErklärRoboter which literally means Paderborn's first cool education robot) has already proved a big hit with the public at the world’s biggest computer museum.
The robot has been manufactured and modified for use in the museum by MetraLabs in Ilmenau/Thuringia. Robots of this type have previously been used as service robots in DIY stores and other businesses, but this is the first time that a MetraLabs robot has been deployed in a museum.
PETER stands 1.50 metres tall, weighs 75 kilos and moves autonomously around the 2nd floor of the HNF. He can head for eight different stations, which are displayed on a screen: visitors are invited to pick one of them. On arrival at his destination, PETER describes the exhibits in either German or English in a clear, artificially generated voice.
MetraLabs and HNF staff have measured the robot’s route through the museum and programmed him accordingly. Ultrasound, lasers and touch sensors help PETER to identify obstacles and people in his path. He either swerves to avoid them or, if that proves impossible, comes to a halt in front of them. He has enough stamina to cope with a full day’s work at the museum and in the evenings takes himself off to the charging station to replenish his energy supply.
The robot was given his name following a vote on the HNF Facebook page. PETER emerged the clear winner ahead of other suggestions – including KAIH (Kann ich helfen which means Can I help you) and Informatix – put forward by HNF staff and Facebook friends.
However, PETER is only part of an extended exhibition area at the HNF. Many new exhibits have recently been added to the 2nd-floor section entitled “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics”. This now includes a large collection of toy robots as well as an automatic gripper hand, an ultra-modern lightweight arm, a small flying robot and a “micro-mouse” that can find its way through a labyrinth. The main attraction is the functioning robot actor RoboThespian, who can perform scenes from films and imitate the movements of another person.