Having a loved one die on you is pretty much the worst thing imaginable. A close second would be the mourning period that some religions dictate must take place after the loved one has been buried. I would prefer to move on with my life and forget the pain, but some people just don’t have that option. If only there was an easier way.
Well, there is a much easier way. The only catch is that this easy way only pertains to the Jewish faith. You see, the mourning ritual in Judaism lasts for 30 days after burial. During the first seven days, the mourner must tear their clothes and wear them every day as a sign of mourning. After that, a series of events occur from preparing meals to reciting prayers.
Unfortunately, the robot can’t do any of that. The clothes tearing and meal preparation still falls on the actual people involved. What the robot can do is take care of the grave of the recently deceased. grave care is immensely important in many cultures, with Judaism being of them. The robot will patrol the grave and clean it with water. It will also lay stones and flowers on the headstone.
The robot itself was built using a simple Roomba, the vacuum cleaner robot. The inventors, Itamar Shimshony and Zvika Markfeld, added a number of features to the Roomba including a robotic arm, water pump and an ultrasonic proximity sensor.
The team originally was going add a video projector to the robot. It would shine video onto the tombstone. They also wanted to make the robot gradually lose its “mind” so that it would begin to run around in circles or placing stones in random places. The ideas never panned out, but it might be up for a later reboot.
Stony is just a simple concept at this phase. As robotics become more diverse, we can expect to see them fulfilling this kind of role more often. People generally don’t want anything to do with the dead and leave the dirty work in the hands of somebody else. Who better to take care of the dead than a robot?