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Robot crushes man to death after mistaking him for a box

A smart factory concept.
VectorPortal/CreativeCommons

A robot crushed a man to death after apparently mistaking him for a box, South Korean media reported.

The tragedy occurred on Wednesday evening local time at a vegetable sorting facility in South Gyeongsang province about 150 miles south of Seoul, according to the BBC.

The industrial robot is designed to lift boxes of vegetables and place them on a pallet, but as an employee from the company that made the machine ran checks on it, the robot suddenly pushed him against a conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest.

After being freed, he was rushed to hospital with severe injuries but later died.

The employee, aged in his 40s, had been working to fix an issue with the robot’s sensors, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Following the incident, an official from the Dongseong Export Agricultural Complex, which owns the plant, called for a “precise and safe” system to be put in place.

Wednesday’s accident follows a similar one earlier this year when a South Korean man in his 50s became trapped by a robot while on shift at an automobile parts factory, leaving him with serious injuries.

The incidents demonstrate that while robots can bring significant benefits in terms of efficiency, they can also pose a risk to nearby humans if they’re not properly designed or maintained, or if those working alongside them fail to receive suitable training.

Tech giant Amazon, known to deploy huge numbers of robots at its warehouses with plans for more, recently commissioned the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to conduct research that will include a look at how workers can interact with robots safely and efficiently.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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