A German church has launched a robot ‘priest’ that beams lights from its hands and gives automated blessings to people.
The unique robot was launched in the historic town of Wittenberg to mark 500 years since German priest Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses — a work widely acknowledged to have spread the Protestant Reformation.
The robot, called BlessU-2, was developed by the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau.
The robot consists of a metal box with a touchscreen, two arms on the side, a head with eyes and a digital mouth at the top.
After the robot wishes users a “warm welcome”, it asks them if they want to be blessed by a male or female voice.
It then asks the person what blessing they want, after which it makes a mechanical sound as it raises its arms and smiles.
Lights then start to flash in the robot’s arms as it says, “God bless and protect you” and recites a biblical verse.
After the blessing, the user can take a print of the dictum.
“It is an experiment that is supposed to inspire discussion,” Church spokesman Sebastian von Gehren told the Mirror.
Gehren explained that they decided not to give the robot a typical human appearance.
People who have little in common with the church are particularly attracted to the robot, with many people “now coming every morning and evening”, he said.
The robot was met with mixed reaction, with many churchgoers saying that they “cannot imagine a blessing from a machine”.
“The machine should not replace the blessing of a pastor. In the future there will not be a blessing robot in every church,” Gehren said.