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A Robot Monk Captivates China, Mixing Spirituality With Artificial Intelligence


BEIJING — Po, the information-seeking hero of the “Kung Fu Panda” films, would possibly recognize this temple in China, where the world’s first robot monk dwells. For Po’s Jade Palace, there may be Longquan (Dragon Spring) Temple, a place of Buddhist worship in the mountains northwest of Beijing, wherein gnarled ginkgo and cypress timber tower over pink-walled buildings underneath rocky Phoenix Ridge.

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There is the comedian center deep in the temple for his corridor of Warriors, on the give up of winding stone paths and steps, beyond a flower-formed audio tool that crackles sutras.

As for Po himself, there’s Xian’er, the two-foot-tall, recommendation-meting out robotic whose complete name is worth stupid robotic Monk. (within the Beijing dialect, “er,” or “silly,” is a term of affection.)

No longer so much “Kung Fu Panda Three” as “Robot Monk 1.”

A childlike creature in an orange Buddhist robe, Xian’er is an object of fascination in China amid an increasingly more pressing pursuit of spirituality and, greater these days, artificial intelligence. But Xian Fan, the head of the comedian center, advised countrywide commercial enterprises daily that the temple didn’t plan to commercialize the robot and that its improvement became for “the public welfare.”

The priests do not appear to be making plans for a franchise. Their best robotic Monk, Xian Fan, instructed Beijing News: “We’re now not doing this for commerce, but simply because we need to use more cutting-edge ways to spread Buddhist teachings.”

The robotic was created in the final year via the temple in collaboration with about a dozen Chinese generation, tradition, and funding businesses, in step with Chinese information reviews. However, the character of Xian’er was first designed with the aid of artists at the comic center for a 2014 Buddhist comic ebook collection, the first title of which was “Troubles Are Self-Made.” The series has been offered nicely in Chinese bookstores; an English-language version is due soon.

As a robotic, Xian’er has multiplied his repertoire. The touchpad on his chest lets him reply to supplicants’ questions and statements, together with: “Who are your parents?” “I’m now not glad” and “What does existence mean?”

On Wednesday morning, personnel at the comedian center declined to let site visitors talk immediately with Xian’er, announcing he was — literally — recharging if you wanted to meet a delegation of presidency officers from Beijing later in the day. They would now not say who the officers were or provide their names, pronouncing they were no longer legal to talk to the news media.

Irrespective of. There was usually Weixin or WeChat, in which Xian’er maintains an account. (Readers can locate him beneath ?????.)

no sentimentalist, his answers to the above queries had been:

· “That’s ridiculous; how can robots have parents?”

· “If you’re no longer happy, what can everybody do about it?”

· “My master says at lifestyles are to assist extra humans ultimately go away in the back of bitterness and benefit happiness.”

Po would possibly have been accredited.

On Wednesday, many site visitors to Longquan Temple doubted whether Xian’er might want to assist people with their troubles, without a doubt. However, some stated they anticipated the generation would develop so quickly that future robotic priests may. A 2nd, smarter Xian’er is already an improvement, a middle worker said.

“I haven’t visible it, however, I’ve heard of it,” Zhang Ping, a middle-aged lady who was traveling the temple, said of the robot monk.

“It relies on variations and mixtures of phrases to solve problems; however, I’m not positive whether it may truly deal with deep private problems,” Ms. Zhang stated. “Everyone is special. For some, those may be about own family, for others, about work. But have a look at how speedy artificial intelligence is progressing. In twenty years, I assume it may be capable of.”

Some other templegoers disagreed. “I don’t assume it’s viable for the intelligence of a robot to be advanced enough to recognize human emotions,” said Wang Yiren, 23, a Buddhist and volunteer at the temple. “The robotic doesn’t truly live as much as my expectancies. But I’ve seen robots in other arena elements that can talk with people, and that’s pretty first-rate.”

He Haikun, 33, a female who became journeying the temple with a friend, stated: “If you have no one to talk to, maybe it’d assist in speaking to a robotic.”

Here are a few other solutions provided by Xian’er through WeChat:

Q: “What is love?”

A: “Love is your obsessions now not being satisfied, the clashing of other human beings’ issues with yours.”

Q: “I don’t want to paintings.”

A: “If you don’t need to starve and feature an O.ok. the process, paintings difficult.”

Q: “I need to die.”

A: “Don’t expect you’re the most hectic individual within the globe: “Who’s Xi Jinping [the president of China]?”

A: “A robot doesn’t understand any humans.”

And eventually:

Q: “Oh, would there be some other Cultural Revolution?”

A: “Wait, I’m able to ask my grasp.”

Po would have been envious of Xian’er for being able to bypass a difficult question to his master, having been required in “Kung Fu Panda Three” to remedy his network’s troubles himself.

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The robotics companies Cabot and Turing robotic Industries, a few of the organizations stated in Chinese language news reports as operating with the temple to produce Xian’er, agreed to answer questions about the task, however, had no longer spoke back as of Wednesday night. At Interjoy, some other enterprises listed as one of the designers, and others, the smartphone rang unanswered.

Carol P. Middleton
Student. Alcohol ninja. Entrepreneur. Professional travel enthusiast. Zombie fan. Practiced in the art of donating rocking horses for the underprivileged. Crossed the country researching hula hoops in Deltona, FL. Won several awards for supervising the production of etch-a-sketches in Nigeria. Uniquely-equipped for investing in bathtub gin in the financial sector. Spent a year building g.i. joes worldwide. Earned praise for deploying childrens books in Africa.