Nothing in life is more repetitive or predictable than death. And robots, which are trained to do predictable, repetitive tasks, are a cheaper substitute for human workers. The cost of a funeral in Japan has climbed to cost between two and three million yen (about $25,000 to $30,000 USD!), so it makes sense to try and use robots as priests to cut down on costs.
Nissei Eco, a plastic molding company, is planning to introduce SoftBank’s Pepper robot to read sutras at Buddhist funerals in Japan. Pepper will wear the robe of a Buddhist monk, as well as come with other option add-ons in their a la carte menu of funeral services. He also features a nonhuman-capable task of live streaming the ceremony to anyone who can’t attend in person.
At a cost of about 50,000 yen per funeral (about $450), these robots are significantly cheaper than the cash offerings typically made to Buddhist priests. Only time will tell if this money-saving offer will catch on and replace the personal touch of a real human’s presence.