Saudi Arabia has employed a robot to issue fatwas – or religious rulings – and provide other services for pilgrims who have arrived in the kingdom for Hajj this week.
The robot will travel between the 6,500 pilgrims who have arrived in Mecca under a special programme run by the ministry of Islamic affairs, offering religious advice and rulings
The robot is remotely controlled and connected to a team of clerics and scholars from the ministry, who provide the religious rulings in a number of languages.
Another robot provides the same service to deaf and blind pilgrims.
Video uploaded to Twitter showed the robot in action, with a cleric appearing on its screen to give advice to a man.
Along with prayer, fasting in Ramadan, the offering of zakat charity to the poor, and belief in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, the Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Muslims who have the capacity and means to do so are expected to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
The Hajj includes special rituals, such as the wearing of ihram garments, the circumambulation of the Kaaba building in the centre of the Great Mosque of Mecca and the symbolic stoning of a pillar representing Satan.
The robot is likely to help Muslims understand when and how to perform these rituals.
The Hajj season occurs annually and falls between 9 and 14 August this year. Over 1.8 million Muslims from outside Saudi Arabia are performing Hajj this year with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from inside the country also participating.
However, there have been calls to boycott the Hajj this year, in protest at Saudi Arabia’s aggressive regional policies and human rights abuses.