Amazon open-sources AI-powered social distancing software

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Amazon has announced the introduction of Distance Assistant, an artificial intelligence tool, that will enforce social distancing at its premises. The new tool allows employees to get immediate visual feedback from a 50-inch monitor that shows green rings around the people which turn red if they get too close to colleagues. The units use machine learning models to differentiate people from their surroundings and combine this with depth sensors to measure the distance between workers.

According to the retail giant, Distance Assistant emerged after earlier efforts were developed to keep people following social distancing rules. It said that initially, AI and machine learning were used on camera footage to help site leaders determine high traffic areas so that effective measures could be taken there. With Distance Assistant, Amazon will be able to cover high traffic areas and help its employees stay safe.

Explaining how the device works, Brad Porter, a VP at Amazon, said:

“As people walk past the camera, a monitor displays live video with visual overlays to show if associates are within 6 feet of one another. Individuals remaining 6 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.”

So far, Amazon has deployed the new technology at a handful of its buildings. It said that employees “find value” in getting immediate visual feedback about their social distancing efforts. Going forward, Amazon will deploy hundreds of these units across its buildings and will open-source the software and AI so that anyone can create their own Distance Assistant. The firm said that it’ll likely carry on developing new and better solutions to enforce social distancing measures.

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