Japanese Buddhists Build Android Teacher To "Reach The Hearts Of Younger People Today"

With its hands clasped together, the Android Kannon began teaching at the famed Kyoto temple built here by the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the 16th-century warlord who unified Japan, to commemorate her husband.

The Android Kannon, styled as a Buddhist deity of mercy, was unveiled to the news media on Feb. 23 at Kodaiji temple before it starts preaching to the public in March. The special exhibition of the Android Kannon is scheduled to run from March 8 to May 6.

“Buddhism saw a phenomenal spread in the world with the emergence of Buddhist images,” said Tensho Goto, a priest at the temple in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward. “We are hoping that the Android Kannon will help Buddhist teachings reach the hearts of younger people today.”

The 100 million yen ($909,090) project to build the android was a collaboration between the zen temple and Hiroshi Ishiguro, professor of intelligent robotics at Osaka University. The temple asked Ishiguro and his team to develop an android that can preach Buddhist teachings “…in an easily understood manner to help give peace of mind to troubled people”.

This particular android, named Mindar, is programmed to teach the Heart Sutras in Japanese. The translated versions of English and Chinese are projected on a screen. Mindar, which has a camera installed in its left eye, stands 195 centimeters tall, including the base, and weighs 60 kilograms. It can move its head, as well as arms and torso.

Apparently this android has a past. “The Kannon deity transforms itself into various forms to help people. This time, Kannon changed into an android,” according to the temple.

—The American Buddhist