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Amazon promotes social distancing among employees with AI

Amazon social distance solution

Amazon is rolling out a new solution that provides employees live feedback on their distance from other workers.

The e-tail giant is introducing an in-house-developed technology that applies artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to the camera footage in its buildings to help site leaders identify high-traffic areas and implement additional measures to improve social distancing.

The solution leverages augmented reality (AR) to create a magic-mirror-like tool that helps associates see their physical distancing from others. Working backwards from a concept of immediate visual feedback, and inspired by existing examples like radar speed check signs, the “Distance Assistant” provides Amazon employees with live feedback on social distancing via a 50-inch monitor, a camera, and a local computing device. 

The standalone unit uses ML models to differentiate people from their surroundings. Combined with depth sensors, Amazon says the ML technology creates an accurate distance measurement between associates.

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

On-screen indicators are designed to remind and encourage associates to maintain appropriate distance from others. The self-contained device requires a standard electrical outlet, and is designed to be quickly deployed to building entrances and other high-visibility areas.

Amazon’s first Distance Assistant installations are now live at a handful of its buildings. Based on initial positive employee feedback, Amazon will be deploying hundreds of these units over the next few weeks. The company has also open-sourced the software and AI behind the solution so that anyone can create their own version of it.

Amazon has been developing a variety of proprietary COVID-19 countermeasures, including its own onsite testing labs and 3D-printed face shields. The e-tailer says it will spend its entire anticipated $4 billion Q2 profit on COVID-19 remediation efforts.

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