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Opinion: New Japanese robot may replace priests one day


In fact, this robot’s specifically designed to perform Buddhist funeral rites.

Lately the robotics industry has skyrocketed in massive waves, which gets us asking the interesting question: will they replace humans? It seems like that may be the case, although thankfully we won’t ever see a Terminator or Matrix scenario.

And why will we see robots take over the world? Because of a Japanese company, Nissei Eco Co. — they’ve constructed the world’s first “priestly” robot.

That’s right: a little humanoid robot named “Pepper” has been designed to actually conduct funeral services, specifically Buddhist funerals. And while the idea seems somewhat off in a lot of cases, from a financial standpoint, it does make a dent in the decision making.


Pepper will cost any family or individual just 25% of what it would cost to hire a human priest. It, therefore, makes the endeavor a bit interesting.

Many might scoff at the fact that we might make a big deal about the price of a priest, but here’s the thing: thanks to Japan’s shrinking population, you might find that you’ll have a hard time locating a readily available Buddhist priest on call. Now we have Pepper.

To put some more numbers in there and illustrate further, Pepper will only cost a simple 50K yen (which is about $450). In comparison, human priests charge a hefty 240K yen (and that’s $2.2K). So the benefit’s pretty clear.

However, at this moment, Pepper hasn’t been hired for any Buddhist funerals

That says something about the human spirit, religion, and a certain sentimentality about a machine presiding over humanity. After all, especially when it comes to Buddhism, the heart matters; it’s the foundation of all religion. You then have to ask yourself that important question — can a robot have a ‘heart’?