We're still some time away from the day robots are able to find their own faith, but in the meantime, they can certainly teach it. An Iranian schoolteacher by the name of Akbar Rezaie has put together a rather innovative means of encouraging his students to pray: he's built a robot. Veldan - a term mentioned in the Quran as meaning "Youth of Heaven" - is a humanoid robot small enough to fit on a desk and equipped with motors that allow it to perform a wide range of different praying motions.
Veldan will be helping Rezaie teach the Quran to elementary students at Alborz, a small school in the town of Varamin, 35 kilometers southeast of Tehran.
According to Rezaie, he first got the idea for Veldan from a Western dancing and singing doll. He saw a young girl at a family gathering playing with one, and noted how passionately she was watching the toy. It occurred to him that there could be educational value in something that can hold a child's attention for so long. With that in mind, he set out to create his machine.
The little robot was put together using an educational kit designed by Korean robotic manufacturer Robotis Bioloid. He was able to give it a fuller range of motion by applying a few mechanical modifications on top of the basic kit. Two extra engines allow the robot to perform praying motions - including prostration - more easily.
Now, Rezaie uses the robot as a teaching tool for his class. He hopes that it might eventually be mass-produced. It's a huge hit with his students.
"It was so exciting to me to see a robot pray. I have decided to always say my prayers too," said one child.
"As you see the children's reaction in their faces, you realize how interesting it is to them to see how the science of robotics has been beautifully used for a religious purpose and I am sure it will be greatly effective in teaching them how to pray," he explained.
Rezaie has formally registered the robot's invention patent and the right to its design at Iran's State Organization for Registration of Deeds and Properties.