Amazon has revealed details of its “Distance Assistant” technology that uses augmented reality to gauge the distance between employees as they walk warehouse floors and provide real-time feedback on social distancing.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Amazon developed a solution that applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to the camera footage in its warehouse buildings to help site leaders improve social distancing. To improve the solution, Amazon engineers set out to use augmented reality to create a “magic-mirror-like tool” to helps associates see their physical distancing from others.
The “Distance Assistant” provides employees with live feedback on social distancing via a 50 inch monitor, a camera, and a local computing device, according to Brad Porter, vice president and engineer leading Amazon’s robotics. The standalone unit uses machine learning models to differentiate people from their surroundings and depth sensors to 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,” writes Porter. “Individuals remaining six feet apart are highlighted with green circles, while those who are closer together are highlighted with red circles. The on-screen indicators are designed to remind and encourage associates to maintain appropriate distance from others. The self-contained device requires only a standard electrical outlet, and can be quickly deployed to building entrances and other high-visibility areas.”
Amazon’s first installations of the tech are live at a “handful” of warehouses and Amazon plans to deploy hundreds of the units over the next few weeks.
“We are also beginning the process to open source the software and AI behind this innovation so that anyone can create their own Distance Assistant,” writes Porter.