Pepper the robot is now a Buddhist priest ready to conduct funerals

Robots are said to be coming for our jobs, and even priests are at risk. 

The Japanese robot Pepper, developed by Softbank, has begun operating as a Buddhist priest after being programmed to conduct funerals.

The 4ft humanoid has been updated to chant sutras while tapping a drum and was on display at the Life Ending Industry Expo in Tokyo earlier this week. 

A video from Nippon News shows the robotic priest in action. 

Pepper has not conducted any funerals yet, but Japanese plastic company Nissei Eco Co will hire Pepper for the job for around £350 (50,000 yen). Human Buddhist priests typically charge £1,700 (240,000 yen), according to Reuters

Pepper was designed to be used for customer service in banks, shops and for greeting people. In the future, it could be used in people’s homes. 

Equipped with a camera and sensors, Pepper, can react to human emotions, laugh if told a joke, plus it has the ability to learn from conversations in Japanese and English. At the end of 2016, Nescafe hired 1,000 Pepper robots to work in stores across Japan to help customers looking for a Nespresso coffee machine. Pepper later replaced staff at a phone store in Tokyo. 

Surprisingly, Pepper is not the first robotic priest. In May, the German town of Wittenberg built a robotic pastor to mark the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation. It was installed in the same place Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door.

Called BlessU-2, the robot has a touchscreen in its torso, with two arms holding lightbulbs, and a head. Worshippers can tap on the screen to select different options and BlessU-2 doles out blessings in German, English, French, Spanish or Polish – in either a male or female voice.  

When a blessing has been requested, BlessU-2 will raise its arms, open its palms and emit light from embedded bulbs.

Image: YouTube

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