Robot Assistant Falls to its Demise at South Korean City Hall

The android threw itself off the stairs after being employed for less than a year at a city hall in South Korea

A robotic assistant employed at the Gumi City Council in South Korea ended its existence while at work, falling into a stairwell, the administrative body announced on Wednesday.

The incident at the council occurred last week; the robot had been seen “spinning in one place as if something was wrong” before falling two meters from the top of a staircase. 

“Parts of the robot have been collected and will be analyzed by the manufacturer,” an official with the city council told AFP.

The robotic assistant, manufactured by a California-based startup called Bear Robotics, took on the administrative role at the council last August. The robot had its own employee card and worked from 9am to 4pm, transporting documents around the building, providing assistance to visitors, and otherwise promoting the city.

The machine’s demise has left the city hall’s staff deeply saddened; no plans to adopt a new robot are currently under consideration. “It is officially part of the city hall, a member of us. It has worked hard,” a city hall official said.

The incident has been touted by local media as the first-ever “robot suicide” to happen in the country. However, the droid was preceded in ‘death’ by an incident in Washington, DC, when a security robot named Steve drowned himself in a water fountain.

Footage of Steve laying on his side near his human colleagues promptly went viral at the time, triggering a wave of gallows humor questioning the preciousness of artificial life. The ‘self-delete’ hypothesis, however, was later debunked, as Steve’s black box data indicated that the machine had slipped on a “loose brick surface” and fallen prey to a tragic accident rather than dark thoughts.