First robot ‘suicide’ in South Korea: Overworked droid falls down stairs

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South Korea’s first ‘robot suicide’: Gumi City Council robot found unresponsive.

SOUTH KOREA, July 7: In a tragic incident that has stunned residents, a robot employed by the Gumi City Council was discovered unresponsive at the bottom of a two-meter staircase, leading to speculations of what locals are calling the country’s first “robot suicide.”

According to reports from The Daily Mail, the unsettling discovery unfolded on June 20th around 4 pm. Eyewitnesses recalled seeing the robot, known as ‘Robot Supervisor,’ exhibiting unusual behavior just moments before the incident. Witnesses described the robot circling in one spot as if sensing something before it tragically fell down the staircase.

Manufactured by Bear Robotics, a California-based company, city council authorities swiftly gathered the fragmented pieces of the robot for analysis and promptly dispatched them to the company’s headquarters. Despite these efforts, the exact cause behind the robot’s erratic behavior remains shrouded in mystery.

Unlike conventional robots confined to single-floor tasks, Robot Supervisor possessed advanced capabilities, navigating seamlessly between floors and even summoning elevators independently. A key asset to Gumi City Hall, the robot’s responsibilities included document deliveries, city promotions, and dispensing information to residents, earning it an official role within municipal operations.

Local media outlets quickly picked up on the incident, prompting widespread speculation about whether the robot’s workload contributed to its malfunction. City officials, however, have refrained from confirming any specific cause.

Appointed to duty in August of the previous year, Robot Supervisor represented a pioneering initiative in robotic assistance within the city. South Korea, known for its high density of industrial robots, with one for every ten human employees according to the International Federation of Robotics, has been at the forefront of integrating robotics into various sectors.

In response to inquiries about future robot deployments, Gumi City Council officials indicated there are currently no plans to replace the deceased Robot Supervisor, leaving the future of robotic assistance in municipal operations uncertain.

This incident recalls a previous instance in 2017 when a security robot named Steve in Washington, DC reportedly “died by suicide” after plunging into a fountain. Subsequent investigations revealed the incident was caused by the robot slipping on a loose brick surface, highlighting the unpredictable nature of robotic interactions in urban environments.

As the investigation into Robot Supervisor’s demise continues, questions remain about the role and integration of advanced robotics in public settings, prompting reflections on safety protocols and the evolving relationship between humans and machines.

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