Amazon has turned to an AI-powered solution to help maintain social distancing in its vast warehouses.
Companies around the world are having to look at new ways of safely continuing business as we adapt to the “new normal” of life with the coronavirus.
Amazon has used its AI expertise to create what it calls the Distance Assistant. Using a time-of-flight sensor, often found in modern smartphones, the AI measures the distance between employees.
The AI is used to differentiate people from their background and what it sees is displayed on a 50-inch screen for workers to quickly see whether they’re adhering to keeping a safe distance.
Augmented reality is used to overlay either a green or red circle underneath each employee. As you can probably guess – a green circle means that the employee is a safe distance from others, while a red circle indicates that person needs to give others some personal space.
The whole solution is run locally and does not require access to the cloud to function. Amazon says it’s only deployed Distance Assistant in a handful of facilities so far but plans to roll out “hundreds” more “over the next few weeks.”
While the solution appears rather draconian, it’s a clever – and arguably necessary – way of helping to keep people safe until a vaccine for the virus is hopefully found. However, it will strengthen concerns that the coronavirus will be used to normalise increased surveillance and erode privacy.
Amazon claims it will be making Distance Assistant open-source to help other companies adapt to the coronavirus pandemic and keep their employees safe.