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A new way to grieve: A robot that acts/looks like dead loved ones

Death is inevitable and universal, but the way to mourn our dear ones is not. In Japan, a robot may create a new way to mourn.

This robot is supposed to sound like a loved one, now imagine the same robot having a 3D-printed mask of their face.

You will be able to stay with that robot for 49 days which is the period of mourning after the funeral in Japan.

That is the concept of Digital Shaman project, which uses a humanoid.

Users will have an interview with the artist while they’re alive. Their physical characteristics and messages will be recorded then.

After the user dies, the bereaved ones will be able to install the program into the robot. It mimics the deceased one’s personality, speech, and gestures.

The robot can imitate hand and head movements the person was making during the interview.

Digital shaman was on display in Tokyo together with its creator, Etsuko Ichihara.

Ichihara says she developed the concept after her grandmother’s death.

“I clearly remember a few things from the funeral. Makeup was applied on my dead grandmother’s face,” Etsuko Ichihara continued. We placed flowers in her coffin. After she was cremated, our family picked the bones out of her ashes. It was a shocking ritual.”

As she felt her grandmother becoming more and more distant, Ichihara realized how Buddhist funerals help the bereaved ones accept their loved one’s death.

The declining number of children and the changing lifestyles of the Japanese are creating alternative ways to mourn.

People may be embracing different ways to mourn and to be mourned in the future, when each home has a robot.

After someone dies, the family can spend 49 days with the digital shaman until they are able to accept their beloved’s passing.

“I think it’s like leaving a will. Users can record whatever message they want to at the interview,” stated Ichihara.

As unreal as it may seem, the artist is planning to sell digital shaman to the public in the future.

People may wonder if the creator is planning to allow the deceased to live forever through the program. She’s not.

“I think it will seriously hinder those left behind to move on,” continued Ichihara.

We live in a digital world. And now a robot has brought together “IT technology” and “Death”.

Will the unique robot create a new way to mourn? We will have to see.

Jon McMichael

Jon McMichael

Jon McMichael is the digital reporter for KOAA. He's been with the station since October 2017.
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