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Did A Robot Really Die By ‘Suicide’ In South Korea? Experts Probe

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Did A Robot Really Die By 'Suicide' In South Korea? Experts Probe

The cause of the fall remains under investigation. (Representational)

A robot employed by the Gumi City Council in South Korea went defunct after falling down a flight of stairs. While some have sensationalised the event as ‘robot suicide’, experts believe it is more likely a technical malfunction or glitch. The robot was a part of the city hall staff and had been working “diligently” since August 2023, said one of its coworkers. It helped with daily tasks such as document deliveries, providing information to residents and city promotion. 

Before the fall, eyewitnesses reported unusual behaviour, with the robot circling in one spot seemingly confused “as if something was there.” The incident occurred on June 27 at approximately 4 pm, with the ‘Robot supervisor’ found damaged and lying in the stairwell between the first and second floors of the council building.

The cause of the fall remains under investigation. Officials believe it may have been due to a navigational error, sensor failure or programming bug. A city council official mentioned that the robot’s “pieces have been collected and will be analysed by the company.”

The robot was the first of its kind to have such a role in the city. Developed by Bear Robotics, a California-based startup, it was designed to work autonomously, navigating between floors using the elevator. Unlike other robots, which are typically limited to a single floor, this robot had the ability to move freely, making it a unique asset to the Gumi City Council. The robot worked from 9 am to 6 pm and was even given its own civil service officer card, just like a human employee. 

The manufacturer, Bear Robotics, is working with the council to investigate and prevent similar incidents in the future.  

South Korea has consistently demonstrated a strong affinity for robotics, spearheading the global adoption of automation technology. With a remarkable ratio of one industrial robot for every 10 employees, the country boasts the highest robot density in the world, as per reports.

However, in the wake of the recent robot incident at the Gumi City Council, the municipality has decided to temporarily halt its plans to introduce a second robot officer.  




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