In Wittenberg, the city of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, an evangelical church has created BlessU-2, a robot that can give blessings
Robots, as we've said many times, will revolutionize much of the world. From industries to the home. But we never expected to see a machine in church saying prayers and giving blessings. Instead, that's what happened in Germany, not surprisingly in Wittenberg.
The town of Saxony on the Elbe River is famous for being the first protagonist of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation. And in Wittenberg, five hundred years after Luther, an evangelical church is trying to launch another small internal revolution in the church world. The starting question is: what if a robot said Mass? Trying to answer this question, a group of developers close to the evangelical church of Hesse and Nassau have created a "robot-priest", which is called "BlessU-2".
How it works
BlessU-2 is basically a metal box with a fairly large touchscreen. It also features two mechanical arms, movable eyes and eyebrows, and a digital mouth. When entering the church, the robot greets the congregants and asks them whether they want to be blessed or not. If the answer is yes, the robot makes a kind of smile, illuminates the faithful with a beam of light from its nose and arms, raises its hands to the sky and begins with the blessing. He alternates eye and eyebrow gestures according to the words he says, to emphasize them. The blessing always starts in the same way with "God bless you and keep you" and then a biblical verse chosen at random by the artificial intelligence is read. Once the blessing is over, the user or worshipper can either leave or print out the robot priest's words.
Unlike what one might expect, 50% of the church's worshippers were pleasantly surprised by the technological innovation, according to Sebastian von Gehren, the project's spokesperson. It must be said, however, that the other 50% said they were absolutely opposed to such a solution in the religious field. Machines," said Sebastian von Gehren, "should not replace a priest or a clergyman in the future. The warmth and strength that a man can give to another man is unique. Robots could be an alternative and effective solution, though. Some people tend to trust a machine more than a person. Also, this system could only be used in certain churches that have a large influx of worshippers."
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