If you missed out on the Life Ending Industry Expo last month in Tokyo (if so, get your priorities straight!), you may have missed the unveiling of Nissei Eco's funeral industry game-changer: Pepper, the robot priest. He wears a little robe, he beats a little drum, he's cute as a button, and he'll chant prayers over your corpse. But is he single? Jk jk lol.
You may wonder why anybody would elect to make Pepper's face the last thing they see of earth, but Pepper actually fills a real need in the Japanese funeral biz. In Japan, traditional funerals are elaborate, costly endeavors that fuse rituals from both the Buddhist and Shinto traditions, and often require the services of a Buddhist monk to chant sutras. Hiring a monk can cost upwards of 550,000 yen (roughly $5030), but Pepper the robo-priest can fill in for the low low price of 50,000 yen (roughly $460). It just makes sense!
However, performing somber religious rites wasn't Pepper's first job. Pepper was originally designed by SoftBank to be the first humanoid robot capable of perceiving and interpreting human emotions, earning it receptionist and greeter gigs in banks and hospitals before he found religion. I always thought Siri would be the one looking down on me as my dying body makes one last, frantic attempt to find the nearest Duane Reed, but you know what? This works too.