It seems there is literally no job that is safe from the rising tide of automation, including those who guide us into the afterlife. In Japan robots can serve as companions, helpers for the elderly, entertainment bots but now SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper has put itself up for hire as a Buddhist priest for funerals.
Taking the German blessing bot’s idea and running with it, Pepper’s new code will let it chant sutras in a computerised voice while tapping a drum, providing a cheaper alternative to a human priest to see your loved ones off into the eternal sleep.
With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of £20,000, according to data from Japan’s Consumer Association in 2008, and human priests costing £1,700, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for just £350 per funeral.
With Japan’s population ageing and shrinking, many Buddhist priests receive less financial support from their communities, prompting some to find part-time work outside their temple duties, said Michio Inamura, Nissei’s executive adviser, who suggested Pepper could step in when a human wasn’t available.