Robot for hire to perform Buddhist funerals

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A Japanese company has introduced a new role for SoftBank’s humanoid robot “Pepper” — a Buddhist priest for hire at funerals. It is programmed to chant sutras in a computerized voice while tapping a drum.

Nissei Eco Co., an unlisted plastic molding maker, wrote the chanting software for Pepper, which was introduced by SoftBank Group Corp. in 2014.

With Japan’s population aging 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.

The funeral robot could step in when a priest was not available, he said. It also costs less at 50,000 yen (about U.S. $450) per funeral compared to more than 240,000 yen (U.S. $2,200) for a human priest.  Reuters

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