Japan has debuted an android deity to give Buddhist sermons.
A temple in Kyoto has brought an unexpected new voice to the Buddhist religion. An Android version of Kannon has been designed and created as a means of effectively delivering Buddhist messages to members of the Kodaiji temple in Kyoto. However, this android is more than a mere computer that can spout facts; this could very well be the first android deity that has ever existed.
Android Kannon is considered as a manifestation of bodhisattva which is known to be related to the concepts of mercy. Traditionally, Kannon is known for having extended her time in this world to show compassion.
The Android Kannon, officially named Mindar, gave its first sermon on February 23, providing a live reading and demonstration to the crowd that gathered in the temple. According to Tensho Goto, a local priest, “Buddhism saw a phenomenal spread in the world with the emergence of Buddhist images,” and the appearance of this android deity could help Buddhism reach the hearts and minds of more people seeking knowledge about the faith.
The construction of the android is an exciting element to examine as well. For starters, the project to create this robot cost roughly 100 million yen, close to $909,000. The lead designer behind the project was Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of intelligent robotics who works at Osaka University.
The android weighs 60 kilograms and stands at 195 centimeters tall, and even has a camera implanted in its left eye. The goal of going into the project was to design a robot that could embody the vision of Kannon while delivering a sermon that is easy to understand and approachable for everyone.
The sermon delivered on the first day was spoken in Japanese but also projected in English and Chinese against the wall of the temple. Right now, the appearance of the Android Kannon is a special exhibition which will run March 8 through May 6.
Whether or not this robotic form of deity will catch on remains to be seen, but at the very least it is an incredibly interesting direction to take worship in, and it could be followed by AI deities in the very near future. Only time will tell.