Robot with 3D-printed face of deceased loved one a new way to mourn in Japan

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WATCH: The robot can mimic personality, speech, and imitate hand and head movements, even a sneeze – Dec 28, 2018

Death is inevitable. It is universal. But how we mourn our loved ones is not. Now, a robot in Japan may be creating a new way for people to mourn.

Picture a robot that is supposed to sound like a loved one. Now imagine that the same robot has a 3D-printed mask of the deceased’s face. After the funeral, the period of mourning in Japan is 49 days. And you will be able to stay with that robot for 49 days.

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That is what the Digital Shaman Project, which uses humainoids, is proposing — a new mode of mourning in keeping with the latest technical advances.

While they are alive, people will have an interview with the artists and their physical characteristics and messages will be recorded at the time.

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After they pass away, those bereaving the person will be able to install the program into the robot, which mimics the deceased one’s personality, speech, and gestures.

The robot can imitate the deceased person’s head and hand movements from when they did the interview.

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Creator Etsuko Ichihara says she developed the concept after her grandmother’s death. She recently put her work on display in Tokyo.

“I clearly remember a few things from the funeral. Makeup was applied on my dead grandmother’s face,” Ichihara told Nippon TV. “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.

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Changing lifestyles in Japan and the country’s declining number of children are creating alternative ways to mourn.

“I think it’s like leaving a will. Users can record whatever message they want to at the interview,” said Ichihara. She is planning to sell her creation to the public in the future.

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It’s an unusual way to hold on to a loved one for a little longer but it’s temporary. Ichihara does not plan to allow the deceased to live forever through the program.

“I think it will seriously hinder those left behind from moving on,” she said.

— With files from NBC.