Nissei Eco robot undercuts Buddhist priests

Occurred: August 2017

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The configuration of Softbank's Pepper robot as a Japanese Buddhist priest able to deliver funerals sparked consternation that it would replace human priests. 

Developed by plastic moulding maker Nissei Eco Co., Pepper would chant Buddhist funeral sutras while tapping a drum. 

Introduced as a cheaper alternative to its human equivalents, 'Pepper' was said to cost less at JPY 50,000 (about USD 450) per funeral compared to more than JPY 240,000 (USD 2,200) for a human priest. 

In addition to undercutting human priests, Pepper robots were also pitched as able to help resolve staffing and revenue problems at Japanese temples, which had been suffering from falling attendences due increased secularisation and an ageing population.


Developer: Softbank Robotics; Nissei Eco Co

Country: Japan

Sector: Religion

Purpose: Conduct funeral rites

Technology: Robotics
Issue: Anthropomorphism; Employment 


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Type: Issue
Published: September 2023