July 2, 2020
As we have come to realize over the past few months, social distancing isn’t something that comes naturally to us as humans. Nevertheless, it will be an important part of our path to safely reopening our economy. Luckily, many businesses have begun to develop software systems that will help.
Amazon has come out with a new technology called “Distance Assistant,” which helps businesses optimize social distancing as they return to work in person. Distance Assistant uses real-time video surveillance to show if people are properly socially distancing in the workplace. By allowing this software to be free and available to all businesses, Amazon is helping companies achieve a post-pandemic future that puts preventative measures into action, while striving to achieve as much normalcy as possible.
Amazon began to develop this software as they were reimagining workspaces for their own employees. The technology behind Distance Assistant applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to cameras in order to identify high-trafficked areas. The software identifies areas where the CDC’s social distancing guidelines are not being followed.
This tool allows for each person’s physical proximity from others to be observed in real-time. Surveillance video is overlaid with circles around each person on the monitor. When they are adhering to the CDC’s social distancing rules, those circles appear green. However, when social distancing is breached, the circles become red. This can help employers find ways to adjust their current operations so that they can keep their employees safe and remain open.
Amazon offers a demonstration of how Distance Assistant works here.
The software was inspired by existing immediate visual feedback technologies, such as radar speed checks. They modified this idea by coupling depth sensors with machine learning models to allow Distance Assistant to effectively differentiate people from their surroundings and measure the distance between individuals.
Distance Assistant is currently being used in various locations and has recently been open sourced so that it can be adapted for any business to use. It is free to download, and only requires a camera and a computer to operate. Going forward, technologies like this will help businesses reopen in ways that are productive, while also being safe and sustainable in the long run.