UK markets open in 4 hours 41 minutes
  • NIKKEI 225

    23,261.98
    -156.53 (-0.67%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    24,415.58
    -293.22 (-1.19%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    37.45
    +0.06 (+0.16%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,879.10
    -0.10 (-0.01%)
     
  • DOW

    26,519.95
    -943.24 (-3.43%)
     
  • BTC-GBP

    10,163.42
    -12.21 (-0.12%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    261.40
    -11.29 (-4.14%)
     
  • ^IXIC

    11,004.87
    -426.48 (-3.73%)
     
  • ^FTAS

    3,155.25
    -78.74 (-2.43%)
     

Amazon uses AI to warn employees who stray too close to each other

Olivia Rudgard
·2-min read
In this file photo taken on March 30, 2020, Amazon workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse strike in demand that the facility be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus in New York - ANGELA WEISS /AFP
In this file photo taken on March 30, 2020, Amazon workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse strike in demand that the facility be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus in New York - ANGELA WEISS /AFP

Amazon is using AI to warn warehouse workers about coming too close to their colleagues as the company tries to slow the spread of coronavirus in its facilities. 

The technology, which the company said was inspired by speed check signs on roads, circles employees who move too close to others in red, while those keeping a six-foot distance are circled in green. 

Cameras film the scene, machine learning picks out the employees from the background and depth sensors measure the distance between them. 

Screens set up around the warehouse are then used to show employees when they are getting too close together.

Amazon has been criticised by workers for failing to protect them after a series of Covid-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The software, called Distance Assistant, is already live at a handful of locations and will be more widely deployed over the next few weeks. 

Brad Porter, who leads Amazon’s robotics projects, said: “We’ve heard that employees find value in getting immediate visual feedback, and site leaders are welcoming another safety measure.

“Based on that positive employee feedback, we will be deploying hundreds of these units over the next few weeks.”

The company also said it planned to open-source the software allowing other workplaces to deploy it. 

Employee complaints include claims that hand sanitiser was rationed, not enough quarantine time and work requirements that were incompatible with social distancing. 

Earlier this month three New York workers filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that the company has had "a façade of compliance" with public health guidelines while putting workers and their families at risk. 

In response to the suit Amazon said it had taken steps to slow the spread of the virus including implementing 150 "process changes" and investing billions into prevention initiatives.