Monk Robot Offers Spirituality Via A.I.
Xian'er was developed last year as part of a collaboration between a dozen Chinese technology, culture and investment companies.
Need some spiritual guidance in these tough economic times? Robot monk to the rescue.
At a Buddhist temple northwest of Beijing, a humble machine has some advise for you. Xian'er, which translates into Worthy Stupid Robot Monk ("stupid," being a a term of affection in the local dialect), uses a touchpad to respond to questions or statements from visitors, reports the NY Times.
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If you ask, "What is the meaning of life?" the little orange-robed fellow will respond, "My master says the meaning of life is to help more people finally leave behind bitterness and gain happiness."
If you say, "I'm not happy," he'll say, "If you're not happy, what can anyone else do about it?"
Xian'er was developed last year as part of a collaboration between a dozen Chinese technology, culture and investment companies. The robot is based on a comic book character created by artists at the Comic Center inside the temple.
"We're not doing this for commerce, but just because we want to use more modern ways to spread Buddhist teachings," said Xian Fan, head of the Comic Center.
But who would go to a robot for spiritual guidance?
"I don't think it's possible for the intelligence of a robot to be advanced enough to understand human feelings," said Wang Yiren, 23, a Buddhist and volunteer at the temple.
On the other, said vistor He Haikun, 33, "If you have no one to talk to, maybe it would help to talk to a robot."
As artificial intelligence advances, such robots could be called upon to handle spiritual questions. In the meantime, Worthy Stupid Robot Monk may be nothing more than a tourist attraction.