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Latest AI 'Buddhabot' allows users to 'chat' with Buddha image about their worries

This image provided by the research team led by Kyoto University shows a smartphone screen in which a Buddha image answers users' questions based on Buddhist sutras.

KYOTO -- A team of researchers in Japan has developed an artificial intelligence system for smartphones that can automatically answer users' questions about their worries from a Buddhist perspective, while displaying an image of Buddha on the screen.

    The AI system is fed with two types of Buddhist scriptures including the world's oldest "Sutta Nipata," and is capable of coming up with 1,000 kinds of answers depending on the content of users' consultations.

    As the system is a combination of the "Buddhabot" AI dialogue system unveiled by the team in 2021 and augmented reality (AR) technology, it can also display images of the place where the user is located as the background of the Buddha via the smartphone camera function.

    When a user enters their questions using text or voice, the Buddha on the smartphone screen answers them, giving them a sense of "chatting" with the Buddha in front of them.

    The content of answers is the same regardless of the user's age or gender. For the time being, the latest "AI Buddha" will be available at events and on other limited occasions. The research team aims to eventually release the system to the general public after making improvements while securing society's understanding about using the image of Buddha in it.

    Seiji Kumagai, an associate professor in Buddhist studies at Kyoto University, who heads the research team, commented, "Buddhist circles face a harsh reality with the income of temples waning, while people's anxiety and suffering are growing amid the coronavirus pandemic and other crises. We'd like to respond to both challenges by combining traditional wisdom with AI and the metaverse."

    (Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Kyoto Bureau)

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