BlessU-2: Information in English
An interactive experiment: "BlessU-2" / The "Blessing Robot"EKHN/Di DioBlessU-2
BlessU-2 is an interactive experiment of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau developed for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. As an integral part of a special “Moments of Blessing“ parcours, an interactive educational trail located outside of the mobile “Church of Light”, the installation welcomes visitors at the World Reformation Exhibition in Wittenberg (Saxony-Anhalt) from May to September.
The overriding goal is to challenge people to consider the meaning of blessing and the increasing digitalization with artificial intelligence in the 21st century. In developing the project, the church worked closely with Alexander Wiedekind-Klein, an engineer and media artist, as well as founder of the first robot magazine in Germany, “Roboterwelt”. Fun fact: the technology of BlessU-2 is based on an atm-machine initially designed to facilitate financial transactions.
BlessU-2 speaks seven languages, including the local Hessian dialect. The visitor may choose between a male or female voice, as well as from different situations involving blessing. In turn, the interactive Installation, known as the “Blessing Robot” chooses a special blessing from a selection of more than 40 Bible verses. Anyone may receive a blessing, and children in particular are fascinated by the machine. In addition, visitors have the opportunity to share their experiences in written form or on the internet: lichtkirche.ekhn.de/wittenberg-2017/installation-blessu-2-segensroboter/kommentare-segensroboter.html. During the first week of the exhibition, BlessU-2 spoke more than 600 blessings. Particularly intensive work phases require that the machine be kept cool by an additional fan.
The goal of the interactive experiment is to stimulate thought and debate, albeit in a playful setting, about the future of the church in a world full of electronic devices. The exhibition “Moments of Blessing” has already struck a chord among – and been a blessing to – a large number of curious and highly-interested visitors.
No need for worry: the Protestant Church doesn’t intend to replace human pastors with robots any time soon. Not only daily meditations, but also baptisms and weddings – all conducted by real human pastors – are being offered in the “Church of Light” in Wittenberg. Indeed, worshipers needn't worry about clergy being replaced with machines, as robots could never be adequate substitutes in providing competent and compassionate pastoral care. While we don´t want to robotize the work of the church, we do endeavor to provide a much-needed biblical and theological perspective on the complex relationships between human beings and machines in an increasing technological world.
For additional information in English regarding the “Church of Light”, please click here: lichtkirche.ekhn.de/welcome.html