Amazon to enforce social distancing in warehouses with AI surveillance software 'Distance Assistant'

Reuters, 2017

Amazon says it will deploy an artificial intelligence surveillance system in warehouses that tells workers if they are too close to colleagues, as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and workers are placed at risk.

Workers who fail to keep a safe distance will be circled in red.

Matt Day at Bloomberg News reports that this is the latest effort by Amazon.com to adjust workers' conditions to the unabated threat of coronavirus.

The new software, called Distance Assistant, displays camera footage on a television monitor, with annotations noting which employees are following social distancing guidelines. Employees keeping a safe distance are circled in green, and those the software determines are within 6 feet of someone else are circled in red, offering workers immediate visual feedback.

Brad Porter, a vice president who oversees much of Amazon's robotics engineering work, likened the new tool to highway speed check signs. In a corporate blog post published on Tuesday, he said the system was already in use in high-traffic areas at a handful of Amazon facilities, and that Amazon planned to install hundreds of more units in the next few weeks.

The company intends to make its new software freely available to other businesses, Porter said. A spokeswoman didn't say when it would be available.

Read more:
Amazon Deploys New Social-Distancing Software at U.S. Warehouses[Bloomberg News/Matt Day/June 16, 2020]