Imagine a sophisticated robot that attempts to play the role of a pastor, offering blessings to parishioners, reciting Bible verses and using its artificial intelligence to inspire the masses.
You actually don’t need to rely on your imagination much longer, as a church in Wittenberg, Germany, has unveiled BlessU-2, a strange little mechanical fellow who is being dubbed a “robot priest,” reported The Guardian.
According to the outlet, the robot, created by the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau, was unveiled as part of an exhibit marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The “robot priest” can offer blessings in German, English, Spanish, Polish and French.
Here’s how it works: The robot reportedly welcomes users and then asks if they’d like a blessing from a male or female voice. From there, it requests the type of blessing people might want and then says, “God bless and protect you” before concluding with a Bible verse as lights flash and its arms move about, Mirror reported.
The purpose of the robot is to spark debate and “inspire discussion” about the role of artificial intelligence in the future of Christianity, while also commemorating the anniversary of the Reformation.
“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau told The Guardian. “The idea is to provoke debate.”
And Krebs said that the robot already has people chattering. While some are intrigued by the mechanical “priest,” others reportedly worry about how artificial intelligence could impact the church. At the very least, these critics have no interest in receiving a blessing from a machine.
In the end, Krebs said he obviously doesn’t believe a robot could take the place of a priest, especially when it comes to “pastoral care.”
“We don’t want to robotize our church work,” he said. “But see if we can bring a theological perspective to a machine.”
Other Must-Read Stories: