A robot priest that delivers blessings in a choice of German, English, French, Spanish or Polish and beams light from its hands has been unveiled in Germany.
The robot known as BlessU-2 has a touchscreen chest, two arms and a head. Worshippers can choose between a male or female voice.
The robot raises its arms, flashes lights, recites a biblical verse and says: “God bless and protect you.” If requested, it will provide a printout of its words. Unlike human, the robot can work for an uncountable hours including evenings, weekdays and weekends, and a backup robot is available in case of breakdown.
Can a robot ever substitute for pastoral care? Can we robotise our church work and can robots present a solution to a Europe-wide shortage of priests.
Bless-U2 is a technology aimed at challenging religious tradition which took place in the small German town of Wittenberg. The technology is part of an exhibition to mark five hundred years anniversary of the revolutionary printing presses which spread news of Martin Luther’s radical call for church reform across Europe.
Five hundred years ago, a Europe-wide religious, political and cultural upheaval, sparked when Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door in his town. That lead to a start of the Reformation in the church.
The Wittenberg exhibition commemorates the anniversary of political and religious convulsions across Europe in the 16th century, resulting in the greatest schism in western Christianity and a string of religious wars.
Luther’s theses, written in Latin, fundamentally challenged the authority and elitism of the Roman Catholic church.
Half a millennium later, the robot, called BlessU-2, is intended to trigger debate about the future of the church and the potential of artificial intelligence in Christian ministry.