WATCH: Robot ‘priest’ eyed to spark debate on artificial intelligence and faith
Five hundred years ago, a man named Martin Luther questioned the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time. His actions lead to what is now known as the Protestant Reformation.
Centuries after this event, a robot called BlessU-2 has been revealed in Germany to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The robot is intended to trigger debate about the future of the church and the looming potential of artificial intelligence, reports The Guardian.
“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” said Stephan Krebs of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau.
The robot appears rather crudely built, but it is possibly intended that way. It has a touch screen on its chest, two movable arms and a head. BlessU-2 offers blessings in English, French, German, Polish and Spanish. Worshippers can also choose between a male and female voice when receiving blessings.
After selecting options on the screen, BlessU-2 will raise both its arms and flash beams of light from its palms to the recipient while saying, “God bless and protect you” in the chosen language. It can even print out a copy of its words. In case of breakdowns, a spare BlessU-2 unit is available in the back.
“People from the street are curious, amused and interested. They are really taken with it, and are very positive,” Krebs said. “But inside the church, some people think we want to replace human pastors with machines. Those that are church-oriented are more critical.”
Krebs and his colleagues do not see BlessU-2 and its successors to be replacements for human pastors. Rather, they want to see if a theological perspective could be brought to a machine.
On another note, BlessU-2 appears to have a slight resemblance to Bender of Futurama. Alfred Bayle/JB