Visitors to Berlin’s Museum of Communication, stepping into the grand entry hall, are met with a rather other-worldly greeting. One of three robots, about chest-high to an average adult, comes rolling up and offers an introduction to the museum and its exhibits. It’s pretty much a sci-fi show, full of flashing lights and synthesized voices, just like the robots in Hollywood movies. And it’s fun for the kids – one of the robots is even programmed to play ball. But the three machines have a serious purpose.

“They help encourage acceptance and reduce fear of contact,” said Christoph Schaeffer, an engineer at the world-famous robotics lab Fraunhofer-Institut f

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