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In Germany, You Can Get Blessed by a New Robot Priest

BlessU-2 is meant to be controversial.

As it says in the Book of Romans, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Pious inventors in Germany are playing around with this bit of scripture: They’ve invented a robotic priest, currently dishing out sacred texts and wisdom in Wittenberg.

As The Guardian reports, the robo-priest, named BlessU-2, was created in honor of the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It’s the work of a team from the Protestant Church of Hesse and Nassau, led by clergyman Stephan Krebs. It is certainly going to raise some eyebrows, but that is by design. The robot is supposed to be controversial. “We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine,” Krebs said.

When you approach BlessU-2, it first offers a series of choices. You can decide which language you’d like it to speak, whether you’d prefer a “male” or “female” voice, and what type of blessing you’d like to hear.

BlessU-2, in a slightly more threatening pose, smile notwithstanding.
BlessU-2, in a slightly more threatening pose, smile notwithstanding. Youtube

It then grinds into action, raising its arms, emitting light from its hands, and reciting your preferred prayer. Its mouth moves, its eyes rotate, and its nose changes color. The overall effect switches rapidly between “cute” and “menacing” depending on the angle of its eyebrows—much more expressive, it must be said, than what we know of Martin Luther’s.

Despite BlessU-2’s obvious skills, we shouldn’t expect a disruption of the priesthood anytime soon, said Krebs. “[A robot] could never substitute for pastoral care,” he told The Guardian. But at least this one knows what to say when we sneeze.

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