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Amazon launches Distance Assistant AI to help employees maintain social distancing

After being under scrutiny, Amazon has launched an AI that will assist workers to maintain six feet of distance at their workplaces.

twitter-logoYasmin Ahmed | June 17, 2020 | Updated 13:09 IST
(Source: Amazon)

Highlights

  • Amazon has deployed an AI called Distance Assistant that will help its employees maintain social distance.
  • Distance Assistant also uses camera footage in Amazon's buildings to help identify high-traffic areas.
  • The deployment comes after Amazon faced scrutiny for not being transparent about releasing the number COVID patients in the company.

Amazon has launched an AI to maintain social distancing among its workers and to prevent the risk of contracting coronavirus among them.

"Given social distancing isn't always natural, this team set out to use augmented reality to create a magic-mirror-like tool that helps associates see their physical distancing from others," Amazon in a statement said.

Amazon further explained how the AI, Distance Assistant works. "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," Amazon said.

Distance Assistant also uses camera footage in Amazon's buildings to help identify high-traffic areas.

As people walk past the camera, a monitor displays live video with visual overlays to show if associates are within 6 feet of one another. Individuals remaining 6 feet apart are highlighted with green circles, while those who are closer together are highlighted with red circles.

Amazon is also testing a wearable device that lights up and makes an audio alert when workers are too close to each other, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The device is to be piloted from Wednesday at a warehouse outside Seattle. The device is a clear plastic sleeve with a clip that features an LED light and audio system, according to a memo seen by CNBC. When workers are too close to one another, the wearable emits a loud beeping noise and the light flashes, CNBC stated.

"Our first Distance Assistant installations are now live at a handful of our buildings. We've heard that employees find value in getting immediate visual feedback, and site leaders are welcoming another safety measure. Based on that positive employee feedback, we will be deploying hundreds of these units over 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 Distance Assistant," Amazon said.

Amazon has been under scrutiny for the measures it was taking to protect its workers from COVID-19.

A report by The Verge stated that Amazon has not been very transparent when it comes to releasing the numbers of employees being tested positive with COVID-19. Amazon senior vice president of worldwide operations Dave Clark called statistics on infections "not a particularly useful number," the report stated.

"We have requested but not received information on how many of the Companies' workers have been infected with COVID-19, and how many have died from it," a letter from 13 state attorneys general stated.

"Please provide a state-by-state breakdown for each Company with this information," the letter demanded that Amazon disclose the number of workers who have been impacted by the virus, TechCrunch stated.

So far, there have been 8 reported deaths from Amazon due to COVID-19.

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