WITTENBERG, GermanyÂ â The woman startled at the blessing.
âIch habe dich bei deinem Namen gerufen; du bist mein!â In English: âI have called you by name; you are mine!â
It may not have been the words themselves that caused her to jump. The blessing, taken from the biblical book of Isaiah, has comforted many for thousands of years.
It may have been the source of the benediction: A robot built on the body of an ATM machine, whose plastic fingers sprung open and palms lit up as it raised its mechanic hands in blessing, brightening an otherwise gray, rainy day in mid-June.
BlessU-2, the blessing robot, wasÂ part of an installationÂ by theÂ Protestant Church in Hesse and NassauÂ during the summer at the World Reformation Exhibition in Wittenberg, where German monk Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation when he reportedly nailed the 95 theses to the Castle Church door 500 years ago.
And in the same way Luther used the emerging technologies of his day, the churchâs robot has sparked conversation and debate; this time, addressing the relationships between humans and machines â and whether they might lead the church to a technological reformation.
âYou can say itâs a blessing robot. You can say itâs a machine that reads blessings,â said the Rev. Fabian Vogt, spokesman for the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau.
BlessU-2 speaks seven languages in either a male and female voice, depending on user preference, and offers four different types of blessings: traditional, companionship, encouragement and renewal. Those are taken from more than 40 Bible verses, according to the church.
The point of the installation was not to replace human pastors with robots like BlessU-2, Vogt said. It was to ask…