Religion In The News

Robot Preachers For Sale

by Elroy Willis -- January 12, 1999

NEW YORK (EAP) -- A Japanese company has developed what it calls "Preaching Robots" and is making them available for sale to the general public next week.

Maisi Origami, promotional director for Roboki Industries, maker of the robots, says that the robots can be made to look just like people, and can be programmed with up to 100 phrases which can be spoken in a certain order, or randomly.

"We see a big demand for our robots," Origami said during a recent interview with prospective distributors.

"They can stand on their feet and wave their hands and move their heads, just like real people. They can't walk yet, we're working on that now, but they can be placed in a standing position without falling over," he said.

Several of the robots were given to people interested in testing them out, and they all seem to be quite happy with them.

William Roberts, pastor of Lakeside Methodist Church in Dallas, TX, placed his robot on the street corner in front of the church, and programmed it to wave it's arms and say "Come one, come all and be saved before it's too late."

"The robot has drawn quite a bit of attention and new followers to our church," Roberts said. "Some people have thrown rocks and snowballs at the robot, and I have to go pick it back up every now and then, but it's a minor inconvenience," he said.

The robot is weatherproof too, which is nice. It can stand in the rain and cold weather and still speak and move.

The robots run on a new type of battery which can last for up to 48 hours before needing to be recharged, depending on the amount of body movement and hand waving being done.

"When I got the new robot, I programmed it to say "`Jesus is Lord, Come on In!' and it could go for 24 hours without a recharge. But it didn't seem to be attracting enough followers, so I programmed in a bit of hand waving and Jesus saying `I love you, I love you,' over and over and it now lasts about 12 hours without needing to be recharged," Roberts said.

"I don't really need it going for longer than that since I don't actually live in my church and if I leave the robot out after dark, someone might steal it."

Origami says that the current price for the robots is $6,500 for the base model, and can run up to $10,000 for the fully loaded model which can sweat from the face and is capable of trembling the lower lip and crying.

"We're currently working on some new features, like bleeding from the forehead and arms and legs. We got some requests from several Catholic churches for these abilities," he said.

Plans are in development for a solar-powered halo attachment which will enable the robots to run all day long off the power of the sun, and save the batteries for night time or cloudy days.

"We placed the solar collectors in a halo around the head of the robot," Origami said.


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