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This article was published on June 16, 2020

Amazon is using an AI camera system to monitor social distancing in its warehouses

The 'Distance Assistant' is already installed in a handful of Amazon warehouses

Amazon is using an AI camera system to monitor social distancing in its warehouses
Thomas Macaulay
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Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

Amazon has unveiled its latest attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 through its warehouses: an AI camera system known as the “Distance Assistant.”

The cameras are connected to sensors that measure the distance between workers, and machine learning models that differentiate them from their surroundings.

A 50-inch monitor tracks their movements, using visual overlays to show whether they’re within six feet of one another — the minimum distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers that remain a safe distance apart are highlighted with green circles. When they get too close, the circles turn red.

[Read: ‘Pandemic drones’ are flying over the US to detect coronavirus symptoms]

Brad Porter, the vice president of Amazon Robotics, said that the system was already live in “a handful” of buildings and that hundreds more would be deployed over the next few weeks. He added that Amazon plans to open-source the software so anyone can create their own version of the system.

Check out the video below to see the Distant Assistant in action:

Amazon’s coronavirus problems

The Distance Assistant is Amazon’s latest attempt to stop the coronavirus spreading through its warehouses.

The company refuses to disclose how many of its employees have been killed by COVID-19, but according to media reports, at least eight warehouse workers have died of the disease.

In response, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently pledged to spend at least $4 billion on COVID 19-related initiatives — his predicted operating profit for the entire quarter.

Bezos said the investments would include testing capabilities, personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning of Amazon facilities, and higher wages for hourly teams.

Given the company’s history of developing facial recognition, it’s unsurprising that a computer vision system will take up another chunk of the cash.

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