Robot monk updated by Chinese tech firms

Updated 2018-05-14 10:00:03 Xinhua

A robot named "Xian'Er" makes its debut at Guangzhou Animation Festival in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, Oct. 4, 2015.

The Buddhist robots have arrived, and two of China's leading tech firms iFlytek and Tencent have signed a deal with a temple to try to advance a robot monk's wisdom.

Master Xiandu, from Longquan Temple in Beijing, stands alongside Xian'er, a 60-cm tall robot monk in yellow robes sporting a shaved head, at the 5th China Robotop, an annual summit held in Yuyao City, east China's Zhejiang Province, on Thursday.

"The temple has sought to introduce up-to-date AI technology to upgrade Xian'er," said the master, who is in charge of AI and Information Technology at the Buddhist temple.

The temple located on Fenghuang Hill in Beijing's northwest outskirts, 50 km away from the downtown, is regarded as China's most tech-strong temple, with a number of its monks graduating from China's most prestigious universities.

The temple's technology team in 2015 independently developed the robot monk, which can chant mantras and answer questions on basic Buddhist tenets.

Xiandu said that by signing with iFlytek and Tecent, the temple hoped to develop the third generation of Xian'er.

Xian'er's appearance is based on the temple's former cartoon image of a small, puzzled-looking novice monk. It has over 1.37 million fans, and has daily exchanges in both Chinese and English in text and voice messages with some 100,000 people each day on its account on WeChat, a popular messaging app.

The temple's robot development team has found that most questions proposed to Xian'er are about love, stress, annoyance and confusion in life.

Xiandu said Xian'er's answers were mainly based on the thoughts of the temple's abbot, Master Xuecheng. The temple plans to build a database based on the robot's questions and answers.

According to the plan, iFlytek will help improve Xian'er's artificial language ability, and Tencent will boost the robot's data processing functions.

Xiandu said Buddhist doctrine contained Chinese traditional culture and thinking, which could still inspire people. Xian'er can share such wisdom to those who confide it.

He said modern technology has also been introduced to the temple's work on digitizing ancient Buddhist books.

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