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Xian'er Buddhist Monk Robot

Xian'er is a very spiritual robot, a Buddhist monk able to dispense ancient wisdom with a friendly interface.


(Xian'er Buddhist monk robot video)

...there is Xian’er, the two-foot-tall, advice-dispensing robot whose full title is Worthy Stupid Robot Monk. (In the Beijing dialect, “er,” or “stupid,” is a term of affection.)

The robot was created last year by the temple in collaboration with about a dozen Chinese technology, culture and investment companies, according to Chinese news reports. But the character of Xian’er was first designed by artists at the Comic Center for a 2014 Buddhist comic book series, whose first title was “Troubles Are Self-Made.” The series has sold well in Chinese bookstores, and an English-language edition is due out soon.

As a robot, Xian’er has expanded his repertoire. He has a touch pad on his chest that allows him to respond to supplicants’ questions and statements, such as: “Who are your parents?” “I’m not happy” and “What is the meaning of life?”

Older readers will recall the robot pope from Good News From the Vatican, a 1971 story by Robert Silverberg:

Rabbi Mueller removes his sunglasses... "I can tell you that his Eminency is tall and distinguished, with a fine voice and a gentle smile..."

"But he's mounted on wheels, isn't he?" Kenneth persists.

"On treads," replies the rabbi, giving Kenneth a fiery, devastating look. "Treads, like a tractor has. But I don't think treads are spiritually inferior to feet, or, for that matter, to wheels..."
(Read more about the robot pope)

Philip K. Dick's padre booth from his 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer is another example. This device was more generalized; it allowed the user to dial any religious preference.

Getting to his feet he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth; inside he put a dime into the slot and dialed at random. The marker came to rest at Zen.

"Tell me your torments," the Padre said, in an elderly voice marked with compassion. And slowly; it spoke as if there were no rush, no pressures. All was timeless.
(Read more about Dick's padre booth)

The Buddhists are not the first in this arena - check out the 'Electronic Mufti' May Issue Machine Fatwas. Or, Tweet Your Prayers To Jerusalem's Western Wall. Will the Xian'er robot monk preside at any ceremonies? See this Robot 'Minister' Performs Wedding Ceremony.

Via NYTimes.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/29/2016)

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