Droids dance, dogs nuzzle, at robot museum

Madrid - A white robotic beagle sits wagging its tail and nuzzling anyone who pets it, while six pint-sized robots, flashing blue, pump their fists as they dance to the pop hit "Gangnam Style".

They are the stars of a new museum launched in Madrid this month, showcasing what its owners say is one of the world's top collections of robot dogs and other pet automatons.

"As far as we know this is the biggest collection of robots in Europe, and in particular of Aibo robotic dogs," sold by Sony from 1999 to 2006, said the Robot Museum's manager Daniel Bayon, 39.

"They are a very important part of the museum. They are the most advanced robot dogs that have ever existed," he told AFP.

This pack of Aibos is the biggest in the world outside their native Japan, he added.

The museum houses some 140 exhibits dating from the 1980s to the present.

Among them is Nao, a walking, talking miniature humanoid developed by the French robotics company Aldebaran as an educational aid.

"I am a very special robot. I can simulate real-life behaviour," it said, in a high-pitched mechanical voice, during a recent demonstration.

"If you'll excuse me, I'll make myself a bit more comfortable," it added, sitting down on its bottom.

Bleeping droid

Nearby stood a model of R2-D2, the classic bleeping droid first seen on movie screens in Star Wars in 1977.

Since opening nearly two weeks ago, tickets for guided visits to the small museum underneath the Juegetronica games store in central Madrid have sold out several times, Bayon said.

The owner of the collection, local technology enthusiast Pablo Medrano, said most of the models on display are no longer for sale in shops.

The museum is "perhaps the only dedicated robot museum in Europe outside of universities and training centres where we can see this technology of the future," Medrano, 39, told AFP.

"I want robots to be able to help us, just as household appliances and computers are helping us, which years ago was unthinkable. I hope that in a few years robots will meet our daily needs, particularly those of old people."

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