Buddhist monk robot chants and taps drum at funerals

One manufacturer plans to rent out robots for US$ 500 a funeral. In Japan, funerals can cost up to $ 25,000 whilst monks in flesh and bones can cost US$ 2,000. However, the new machines could be hacked with safety issues for people.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – He chants sutras, taps drums, and wears the vestment and robe of a Buddhist monk. His name is Pepper and he is a robot.

Pepper recently made his debut at the funeral industry fair in Tokyo, shown off by plastic moulding maker Nissei Eco.

The manufacture is betting that it can replace monks in flesh and bones with robots that perform Buddhist funeral rituals using a computerised voice for the sutras and live stream the ceremony to those who cannot attend the service.

With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of US$ 25,000, and human priests costing more than US$ 2,000, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for less than US$ 500 per funeral.

However, as artificial intelligence makers try to get more and more robots into everyday life, some scholars warn about their use.

Researchers Cesar Cerrudo and Lucas Apa of the cybersecurity firm IOActive warn that robot manufacturers must deal with vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to spy on users, disable safety features and make robots lurch and move violently, putting users and bystanders in danger.

This is getting more urgent, as robots are increasingly used in homes, offices, and factories.