At Amazon, we’re constantly innovating to support our employees, customers, and communities. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of our talented engineers rallied to support the health and safety of our associates working to get customers the products they needed. As we reimagined workstations and implemented new processes across our facilities, our engineering teams looked for ways to help our teams maintain social distance and saw an opportunity to evolve our tech and promote social distancing behavior in real-time. Given social distancing isn’t always natural, our engineering teams set out to use augmented reality to create a magic-mirror-like tool that helps associates see their physical distancing from others.
Working backwards from a concept of immediate visual feedback, and inspired by existing examples like the ‘self-service’ radar speed check mechanism that reminds drivers on Australian roads to slow down by displaying their speed on a screen as they drive past, our 'Distance Assistant' provides employees with live feedback on social distancing via a 50 inch monitor, a camera, and a local computing device.
As people walk past the camera, the monitor displays a live video feed with visual cues to show them if they are within two metres of one another. The on-screen indicators are designed to remind our team to maintain appropriate distance from those around them. Those remaining two metres apart are highlighted with green circles, while those who are closer than two metres are highlighted in yellow and then red circles.
Craig Fuller, director of operations at Amazon Australia, said “With a safety-first approach, we have been investing in scalable technology solutions to prioritise the safety of our teams at all times. We are pleased to introduce this global innovation in Australia. Social distancing is a learned behavior and ‘Distance Assistant’ will continue to enhance our safety practices and also empower our team to improve social distancing. As our associates continue to deliver smiles to customers, we remain steadfast in our commitment to helping safeguard their health and will consistently expand our health and safety processes for our people.”
Distance Assistant installations are now live in high traffic areas across our Australian Fulfilment Centres and Delivery Stations. We’ve heard that our team find value in getting immediate visual feedback, and site leaders are welcoming another safety measure. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our employees and we’ll continue to innovate to keep them as safe as possible.
To support our communities, Amazon has open sourced the software behind this innovation so that anyone can create their own ‘Distance Assistant’. Individuals and businesses large and small in Australia can download the package at no cost and get up and running with a monitor, computer and camera.