Meeting A Religious Robot

Meeting A Religious Robot

A religious robot named Mindar has been unveiled at the Kodaiji Temple in the city of Kyoto in Japan. It is designed to explain the teachings of Buddha in the plainest of terms. While Mindar gave a talk on the Heart Sutra and humanity, English and Chinese subtitles were projected onto a wall and music was played in the background.

A Religious Robot Is Modelled After Kannon Bodhisattva

There are statues of Kannon Bodhisattva in many temples and their grounds in Japan and China. There are several different variations, all with their own meanings but the one thing they have in common is their connection to Buddha.

During a news conference in Kyoto, the chief steward f the temple, Tensho Goto, said “If an image of Buddha speaks, teachings of Buddism will probably be easier to understand. We want many people to come to see the robot to think about the essence of  Buddhism.” Another temple official said that the robot will help people who usually have little connection with Buddhism to take an interest in the religion.

The robot was developed by A-Lab which is based in Tokyo. At about 195 centimeters tall and weighing about 60 kilograms, the design the lab has used shows the expertise they have developed in making humanoid robots. The body of Mindar is made from aluminum and its face and hands from silicone.

A Religious Robot Saint

Other religions have used robots too. At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Interaction in 2018, a paper was produced that asked whether divine robots might be possible and why they could be useful. The composers of the report said they were aware that this could be a controversial subject, but their aim is not to deceive anyone as religious robots are a real possibility. They also have suggestions about how they may be used.

They said that the robots should not try to impersonate the divine but should act as intermediaries. They think that not calling it a robot will help, especially if religious symbols are imprinted onto it. Movement need not be a problem as divine figures, and their assistants, tend not to move much at all, but using light, which is often associated with divine beings could be a good move.

For instance, a robot with the appearance of a Christian Catholic saint could pray with users and tell them stories from the bible. The same applies to the Muslin religion except then the stories would be from the Koran. Bearing all of this in mind, one of the reports composers, Trovato, has developed a prototype Catholic Christian saint which will be used under the direction of the Catholic Church.  When asked what he saw as the purpose of theomorphic robots are, he replies : The biggest advantage is that believers can feel at ease with, and even hold in high regard, a robot that has the appearance and identity of a familiar religious entity or an icon, while typically the approach towards robots is characterized by some discomfort:.

 

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