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Humanlike Robots: Shockwaves Over First Ever ‘Robot Suicide’, Yet China Unveils World’s First ‘Emotional’ Humanoid Robot

 

Even as the world is grappling with the disturbing reports of the world’s first suspected ‘robot suicide’ at a workplace in South Korea, which is under investigation by the authorities there, comes news that China has unveiled the world’s first “emotional” robot that has “humanlike behaviour” and is designed to feel “happy, sad and angry”.

Though still a far cry, the continual attempts being made in the field of science and technology to inch closer to one day fulfilling the dream of ‘making’ a ‘human being’, with all traits of intelligence, feelings, emotions, etc, is only sharpening the debate around the ethical and safety aspects of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the future.

The ‘robot suicide’ in Gumi City Council

Recent news reports emanating from the South Korean city of Gumi suggest that a ‘robot administrative officer’, which had been in service of the Gumi City Council since August 2023, had committed ‘robot suicide’. It was recently found defunct after reportedly plunging itself down a staircase.

South Korea, known for its rapid adoption of robotic technology, has the highest robot density in the world, with one industrial robot for every ten human employees.

The robot, as part of its responsibility of performing various administrative tasks like document deliveries, city promotional activities, and providing information to residents during its regular working hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., would move between floors by calling an elevator and was equipped with its own civil service officer card.

The Gumi City Council had announced on June 26, 2024 that their premier administrative officer robot was found unresponsive and shattered to pieces after apparently falling down a six-a-half-foot flight of stairs. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the robot circling in one spot apparently in a state of confusion moments before the fall.

As speculation rose over the emotional capabilities of robots and the possibility of the robot having committed ‘suicide’, the authorities launched an investigation into the entire episode. Pieces of the robot are being analysed by California, US-based company Bear Robotics, that manufactured the robot. The company is well known for its restaurant-serving robots.

‘Guanghua No. 2’, the humanoid robot with a range of emotions

Meanwhile, China has unveiled what has been described as the world’s first “emotional” robot that has “humanlike behaviour” and is designed to feel “happy, sad and angry”.

The humanoid robot, dubbed Guanghua No. 2 displayed a range of different facial expressions at the 2024 World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in Shanghai, China from July 7-9. Developed by Fudan University in Shanghai it stands around 165 cm tall and weighs about 62 kg.

It comes with 45 intelligent joints, which allow the robot to move its hands properly and walk with an upright posture. It is also equipped to handle four emotions – happiness, anger, sadness, and joy on its facial screen.

The creators of the high-tec humanoid shared that their vision is to create a “health companion” capable of providing personalised and empathetic care for the elderly and address their emotional needs.

The robot has been in the development phase for the last two years and was designed by a team of experts from mechanics, biology, engineering, computer science, and big data. Now it will be developed further to cater to practical applications in the day-to-day lives of the increasingly ageing population in China.

 

 

 

 

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