Funeral Innovations: Robotic Priests
A Japanese robot-priest has been launched with the ability to perform funeral rites at a lower cost than a human priest.
Pepper the robot-priest, created by SoftBank, is able to lead Buddhist funeral chants, at a price of £350 per funeral. With funeral prices rising significantly, at a cost of up to £5000 on average in London, robotic priests might well be the future of funerals worldwide.
Pepper the humanoid robot was shown by Nissei Eco; a plastic molding maker at the Life Ending Industry Expo in Tokyo. Nissei’s executive adviser, Michio Inamura, stated that Pepper could perform funeral duties when human priests aren’t available.
The robot was displayed wearing Buddhists funeral robes, which are said to be available when hiring Pepper.
A further innovation that the Pepper the Robotic Priest has to offer is the ability to live-stream the funeral service for those who cannot attend on the day. There is a rising trend in live-streaming funerals, as more and more venues offer digital broadcasting services.
According to the Telegraph, one in three millennials said that they would be happy to watch a funeral online if they couldn’t make it in person, whereas only one in four over the age of 35 were comfortable with the idea. Live-streaming funeral services is just one innovation among many that we are seeing in the funeral sector, among digital tombstones and now, robotic priests.
Stephen Krebs, the man behind the Bless U-2, told the Guardian that the robot was designed to spark religious debate; to encourage lines of questioning such as: ‘could religious leaders be replaced by machines?’, and ‘is a human being necessary to bless other humans?’
The languages spoken by the Bless U-2 are German, English, French, Spanish and Polish, and both ‘male or female sounding’ voices are available to choose from. It also consists of a touchscreen chest and features beams of light which project outwards from its hands.
Because funerals cross the world are getting so costly, robotic priests may be a feasible way to save money on funerals. In the UK, funeral prices are overreaching the rate of inflation, resulting in what is now dubbed ‘funeral poverty’. Would you employ a robotic priest like Pepper for your own funeral?
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