Amazon has been a brilliant innovator in their use of augmented reality to maintain the distance between their workers during the coronavirus pandemic. They are introducing numerous units to implement the new tool in order to ensure the safety of their warehouse staff. The aim is to keep them suitably socially distanced.
The new technology is called the “Distance Assistant” and is a mix of depth sensors, intelligent cameras, and TVs screens in order to keep track of their employee’s movements. Each time a member of staff walks past a camera, the screen will provide a visual cue to demonstrate whether any of the employees are within two meters of each other. Should they be within a safe distance of one another, their image will be surrounded by a green circle shape shown on the screen. If they are too close, their image will be enclosed in a red circle.
The installations are currently live in some of the warehouses and are being further rolled out as more and more employees return to work. The quick and efficient visual feedback is helpful in ensuring the workers are maintaining the required social distance, and it is also a comfort to those workers concerned about the virus. Amazon’s VP and head of robotics, Brad Porter, said that site leaders are pleased to welcome yet another safety measure.
What’s more, Amazon is enabling the open sourcing of the installations’ software and its artificial intelligence so that other businesses are able to copy it and thereby help to ensure the safety of their own employees. However, Amazon is not currently the only organisation to have developed software such as this. An augmented reality tool was recently revealed by Google which is their tool to better help people to visualise their distances from others. This tool is only available on smartphones at present though and users need to visit an external website, rather than using it via Google itself.
Amazon shareholders have purportedly requested employee and facility safety data to be released regularly and timeously, after reports of workers complaining of perilous conditions. The request and the subsequent augmented reality tool installations have come after the retail giant has been criticized for its slow response in ensuring employee safety in the warehouses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the VP of Amazon, Tim Bray, resigned in light of the company’s response to the pandemic. He stated it was “evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture.”.
Even more shocking, an employee from the Staten Island (New York) warehouse facility had died due to the coronavirus. Moreover, a contract-based driver also alleged that he had been let go after he had raised his concerns over the company’s handling of the pandemic and small business’s provisions of personal protective equipment.
Amazon’s use of these specialised augmented reality tools and machine learning is ahead of many other companies, as could probably be expected from the retail giant. The company continues to make tech innovations, not least to ensure the safety of their employees and members of their distribution network. What is excellent about this technology is that it is self-contained and runs via an average electrical socket.