Japan is already known for being at the forefront of humanoid robots that take over traditionally human jobs (hotel concierge and elderly companions, for instance). Now they can add robot funeral priests to their list.
Japan's telecommunications company SoftBank just unveiled "Pepper," its robot priest, dressed in Buddhist robes, that can chant Buddhist scriptures, play the drum, and livestream the ceremony for people who can't attend the funeral in person. The demo took place at Japan's "Life Ending Industry Expo" in Tokyo last Wednesday.
According to The Guardian:
The robot was on display on Wednesday at a funeral industry fair, the Life Ending Industry Expo, in Tokyo, shown off by plastic molding maker Nissei Eco.
With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of £20,000, according to data from Japan’s Consumer Association in 2008, and human priests costing £1,700, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for just £350 per funeral.
Pepper (not a name I'd expect a Buddhist priest to have, but this is a robot we're talking about after all) has not yet been hired for a real funeral.