Robot monk Xian'er teaches temple visitors, chants mantras

Longquan Temple, a Buddhist temple not too far from Beijing, is home to Xian'er, a 2ft. tall robot monk donned in a yellow robe and seeming holding a tablet in his hands. The robot is an unexpected blend of modern with the ancient, and is designed to, among other things, teach visitors some basic things about Buddhism. When not teaching, the robo-monk can chant mantras. The robot's purpose is fairly simple — it is designed to attract visitor attention that may otherwise be dedicated to a smartphone.

The robot is short and squat with a fun design. The tablet between his hands is a touchscreen on which visitors can view one of 20 questions. Xian'er can provide answers to those questions; they concern everything from queries about Buddhism to questions about life within the temple.

Speaking to Reuters, Xian'er's creator Master Xianfian, said, "Science and Buddhism are not opposing nor contradicting, and can be combined and mutually compatible." The temple worked with an unspecified technology company and some artificial intelligence experts to develop the robot.

Xianfian joined the temple as a monk in 2011, and first conceived of Xian'er as a cartoon drawing. It isn't clear when the robot went into service, but it has since been showcased at numerous robotic fairs throughout the nation. Most of the time, though, Xian'er resides on an office shelf.

SOURCE: The Guardian