Amazon has revealed a new tool it’s using to ensure warehouse employees keep socially distant during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new “Distance Assistant” is a combination television screen, depth sensor, and artificially-intelligent camera that can track workers’ movements.
As workers move past the camera, a monitor gives visual information to show if employees are within six feet of one another.
If they are at a safe distance, they will be enclosed within a green circle on the screen. If they are not, they will be in a red circle.
“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” wrote Brad Porter, Amazon’s VP and head of robotics.
Amazon says that hundreds of the units will be deployed over the next few weeks.
The company will also open-source the software and artificial intelligence, so other companies can copy it.
Amazon is not the only company to develop software like this. Google recently revealed an augmented reality tool that better lets people visualise distances.
However, that tool is only available on smartphones and requires visiting a specific website, rather than being used by the company itself.
Amazon’s latest warehouse tool comes at a time when the company has been criticised for its lacklustre response to the coronavirus.
Moreover, an Amazon vice president Tim Bray resigned in response to the company’s coronavirus actions, saying that it was “evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture”.
A worker had previously died at its Staten Island facility in New York, which had been the site of protests against the company.
A contract driver also claimed that he had been fired for voicing concerns about the coronavirus, as third-party contractors and small businesses have struggled to provide safety equipment for their employees.
“This solution is just one of many ideas that have surfaced over the past few months,” Porter wrote in the post. “Knowing my colleagues and their drive, it will not be the last. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our employees and we’ll continue to innovate to keep them as safe as possible.”
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