SanTO robot Catholic priest accused of heresy, blasphemy

Occurred: March 2019

SanTo, a seventeen-inch tall 'Catholic robot' equipped with a computer, microphone, sensors and a facial recognition-enabled camera prompted accusations of heresy and blasphemy. 

Developed by Gabriele Trovato, a roboticist and assistant professor at Japan’s Waseda University, SanTO is a repurposed domestic robot that typically perform religious rites such as delivering sermons and providing basic religious advice  in churches, temples and other religious institutions.

SanTo's introduction prompted accusations of heresy and blasphemy and sparked ethical concerns about the dangers of nudging, AI bias, and privacy. Others scoffed at SanTo's ability to answer anything other than the most basic questions. 

The controversy highlighted the challenges and debates surrounding the integration of advanced technology into religion. 

In October 2021, SanTo was featured in a BBC documentary in St. John Paul II Catholic Church in in the Bemowo district of Warsaw.

Operator: St. John Paul II Church, Warsaw
Developer: Gabriele Trovato
Country: Poland  
Sector: Religion
Purpose: Teach prayer; Provide advice
Technology: Robotics; Facial recognition
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Ethics/values

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Page info
Type: Issue
Published: October 2021