• Ben Truman

Amazon is using artificial intelligence to ensure its employees follow the 6ft distance rule.

In most companies yellow markers on the floor are seen to be enough to show people what a 6ft (1.8m) distance is. Amazon doesn't seem to believe this system is enough for their employees.

Amazon has built a new technology called Distance Assistant, which combines machine-learning and augmented reality to analyse live camera footage of people walking around its buildings. A virtual green circle is overlaid around a person in the images, and turns red if two people are too close to each other, reminding them what six-feet of separation means.

Brad Porter, vice president and distinguished engineer on Amazon’s Robotics division, described the software as a “magic-mirror-like tool.” “Working backwards from a concept of immediate visual feedback, and inspired by existing examples like radar speed check signs, our 'Distance Assistant' provides employees with live feedback on social distancing via a 50 inch monitor, a camera, and a local computing device,” he said this week.

Porter said Distance Assistant has been introduced to a few warehouses, and Amazon plans to implement hundreds of units in other locations in the next few weeks. “We are also beginning the process to open source the software and AI behind this innovation so that anyone can create their own Distance Assistant,” he added.

Coincidentally Amazon was sued by a group of staff working at its New York One warehouse earlier this month for allegedly awful working conditions that failed to protect them from contracting COVID-19.

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