back to article Amazon's not saying its warehouse staff are dumb... but it feels they need artificial intelligence to understand what 'six feet' means

Amazon has tapped up artificial intelligence to help its warehouse employees keep six feet apart to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Specifically, the internet giant has produced something it's called Distance Assistant, which combines machine-learning and augmented reality to analyze live camera footage of people …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Devil

    What this is really going to be used for

    Generating evidence for court saying this person didn't keep their distance so it's not Amazon's fault they came down with it.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: What this is really going to be used for

      Sure, agree.

      Still, I would love to have this at the local grocery. And the DIY store. Oh, and the railway station. People stopped thinking about the distance the moment they put on the mask.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: What this is really going to be used for

        In that short list of complaints. Did you not forget to mention all those peaceful protestor's with their benign bricks of liberation? Or do the terminally offended just get a pass? Surly I can NOT be the only One here that saw the Media go from condemning such 'peaceful' protestors demanding an end to this current madness. Being branded as alt-right yatziees. To try he aforementioned 'peaceful antifa / BLM' protestors who have taken up the liberation of other people's stuff, and then burning what's left to the ground. Why is it that nobody is reminding these people to keep their 'social distance' and or to wear a damnd mask?

        But, it's perhaps best to not bring this up...

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          Are you having a stroke or something? Should we send help?

        2. illiad

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          how about just saying "DO YOU WANT my COVID????" :D

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: What this is really going to be used for

        Most people are smart enough to realise than unless someone sneezes or coughs directly on you the chances of catching covid when walking past someone in the street or supermarket are next to zero so we don't bother to distance in those circumstances.

        Are you one of the paranoids who even wears a mask while driving because you believe a few mm of cheap cotton does a better job of filtering than an automotive grade pollen filter in your car?

        1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          Those thousands of new infections and hundreds of deaths each week are coming from somewhere.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: What this is really going to be used for

            Mostly from care homes and elderly or people who already have chronic illnesses.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: What this is really going to be used for

              "Mostly from care homes and elderly or people who already have chronic illnesses."

              Sure. And where did they catch it from, eh?

        2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          Most people are smart enough to realise than unless someone sneezes or coughs directly on you the chances of catching covid when walking past someone in the street or supermarket are next to zero so we don't bother to distance in those circumstances.

          Large numbers of low probability interactions mean that infections will still frequently occur. For example, if there is a 1 in a hundred thousand chance of catching Covid through a single interaction, then after 3000 interactions (e.g. average 30 interactions a day for 100 days) then a person will have a (1-0.99999^3000 =) 3% chance of catching the disease.

          Another way of looking at it is that there would be about 30 new infections every day in a population of 100,000 interacting people.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: What this is really going to be used for

            Theres a risk of being run down when you cross a road. We all cross roads. Ditto driving.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: What this is really going to be used for

              What the hell is she doing driving - she should be sorting out that bloody app!

        3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: ...unless someone sneezes or coughs directly on you...

          Not strictly true.

          Recent studies have found that tiny exhaled / coughed up / sneezed droplets can hang in the air for several minutes, and can spread 10s of metres in that time.

          Someone doesn't have to cough or sneeze directly on you for you to become infected. Just walk through the cloud they left behind several minutes prior could do it.

          Agreed that wearing a mask while driving is generally dumb, unless there are others in the car who need to be isolated, for instance driving someone to a COVID test site.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: ...unless someone sneezes or coughs directly on you...

            "Agreed that wearing a mask while driving is generally dumb, unless there are others in the car who need to be isolated, for instance driving someone to a COVID test site."

            I've driven with a mask on. I had been out, somewhere potentially infected (red zone) and I didn't have anywhere to wash my hands and put the (washable) mask somewhere safe, so I wore it in the car on the way back. Then when I entered my house, went into the utility room (yellow zone) and washed and doffed the mask.

            Unless you have a lot of equipment in your car to disinfect and store reuseable masks, it's best to treat it as a red zone for PPE reasons.

        4. illiad

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          How much do you want covid?? one spot on the mask, you then touch that spot, you then touch elsewhere.. 1 in 50 chance maybe...

        5. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: What this is really going to be used for

          >Are you one of the paranoids who even wears a mask while driving because you believe a few mm of cheap cotton does a better job of filtering than an automotive grade pollen filter in your car?

          The mask isn't to reduce the risk of you inhaling SARS-Cov-2, you wear it to reduce the risk of you unknowingly distributing live SARS-Cov-2. In this scenario, the car's pollen filter is of zero benefit.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: What this is really going to be used for

        Its not the mask as such. Like the people working for Amazon they have a job to do an a machine that tells them where there next item is, a trolley to get stuff and a mask which makes you feel out of sorts. It takes just something as simple as this to disorientate you enough to not remember to do 2 meters, or even if you remember it just takes enough of your brain up so you dont notice other people. Simply moving items around in shops is enough to throw people to buy the wrong things in normal times - its impossible to find that tin of beans when the mask impinges on your peripheral vision let alone know someone else with the same problem is backing into the space you are backing into. And then there's the general stress caused in social interactions due the the mask...

        Just remember the basketball thing and the bloke in the gorilla suit.

  2. Potemkine!

    What does 'six feet' mean?

    Everybody should use SI units :-P

    1. Zebo-the-Fat

      Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

      It's the length of one average crocodile

      1. Dwarf Silver badge

        Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

        The problem with using an average crocodile is that many are above or below average length, so that would lead to confusion on the exact distances. Conversely this makes it ideal for government use where confusion is always your friend.

        I have a theory though that if we actually used crocodiles to ensure distancing, then that would work as people are naturally wary of the beasts. I'm still working on how to protect the person wielding the crocodile as a ruler though.

        Mind then wanders off to wonder if crocodiles actually get Covid-19 and if they actually are 6 feet long as I thought they got a lot larger than that..

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

      6 feet is 182.88cm.

      By the way, I've only ever seen crocodiles in photos. I've no idea how big they are.

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

        It's the distance that they bury you after you die of corona virus that you caught in one of their "fulfilment centres"

        1. Stumpy

          Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

          ... and there I was thinking that Amazon simply tossed expired employees into a shallow ditch and covered them with quicklime.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

            And charged the quicklime to the hapless employees. And the cost of digging the ditch.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

        Some are bloody huge:

        https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/7/120702-biggest-crocodile-lolong-guinness-world-records-animals-science/

    3. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

      Ok then aprox 2m away then.... Happy now?

      1. Zimmer
        Joke

        Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

        One 'Osman'

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

          Aha thank you! My brain stopped working and I couldn't remember the dude's name. Senility is a terrible thing. And I'm only 46. Does not bode well for the future.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

      And while we're at it... UT _without_ DST or Summer Time or whatever else it might be called elsewhere. The ridiculous idea of a demented British birder. _Of course_ the politicians went for it!

      Oh. On the main story: is this what they mean when they say, "when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail"?

    5. jake Silver badge

      Re: What does 'six feet' mean?

      Six feet is exactly one eleventh of the distance between the stumps of a standard cricket pitch, and exactly 60% of the width. I would have thought that every proper Englishman[0] would have known that!

      [0 Or Lady ::tips 'at::

  3. jonha

    A vid for Matt?

    Perhaps they should also show this vid before our MPs enter the chamber...

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53079006

  4. Whiskers

    Hoops

    I've heard at least one comedian suggest that everyone should wear six-foot-wide hoop skirts, as an aid to maintaining distance.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Hoops

      Needs something, for sure. Working in crowd simulation for the last 20 years, I can say categorically people need all the help they can get to stay socially-distanced.

    2. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: Hoops

      six foot wide is only 3 foot radius...

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Hoops

        "six foot wide is only 3 foot radius..."

        Yes. The other person should also be wearing one though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's almost as if...

    ...people working for a pittance wage in less than great conditions, with the constant threat of termination at a moments notice are easily distracted from “trivial” things such as their own safety…

    1. maffski

      Re: It's almost as if...

      ...people are capable of calculating the opportunity cost from being sat at home for three months

      1. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Re: It's almost as if...

        "...people are capable of calculating the opportunity cost "

        ...of not smoking

        ...of not taking some of the nastier drugs

        People have never been good at risk assessment.

  6. osakajin Bronze badge
  7. MOH

    Maybe they could get the employees to wear wristbands that electrocute them in real time if they get too close? For their own good, of course

  8. boltar Silver badge

    This tech wont go away after Covid

    In the future they'll probably use it to check for employees stopping for a chat instead of getting back to their soulless box packing job, completely ignoring the fact that happy employees are productive ones and pushing people hard often has the opposite effect of what you want to achieve.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: This tech wont go away after Covid

      Amazon don't want happy employees.

      They want mindless drones, their spirits crushed and their souls destroyed.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: This tech wont go away after Covid

        They're working on the drones, meatbag employment is only temporary.

      2. RM Myers Bronze badge
        Unhappy

        They want mindless drones, their spirits crushed and their souls destroyed.

        Like someone working in the modern world of IT, then. We'll all fit right in!

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    So if you're red-green colour blind (the most common type) you can walk wherever you want.

  10. N2 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    6 feet?

    You'll need three in a bed for that.

  11. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I was going to complain that those pictures show six feet *diameter* circles, meaning a three-foot radius, but of course when your three-foot radius fondles somebody else's three-foot radius you're six feet apart.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Mark192 Bronze badge

    I stopped washing

    Ain't nobody coming within 6 get of me anymore.

  13. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Why 2metres/6 feet?

    Because they had to specify a number due to the fact that too many people don't understand how viruses get transmitted and find it easier to just obey and obsess about one or 2 rules. Did you not wonder why we suddenly sold out of hand sanitiser and soap at the beginning of the lock-down? It was because millions of people who previously washed their hands maybe once per day, suddenly realised that they needed to do it 10-15 times per day. Yes, all those people whose hands you were shaking prior to lock-down had NOT washed their hands after using the loo and were wiping their ick onto your hands. The 2 metre rule is irrelevant w.r.t airborne transmission if everyone is wearing a mask but you still need to stop people from touching each other so it's easier to keep it in place as most of us don't have 1 metre long arms. Amazon have a history of combining people and tech to improve efficiency. In this case they are doing it to reduce staff sickness, so are benefiting both their efficiency AND their staff.

  14. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Bad feet

    Yesterday I noticed a chalk pavement drawing on my street, two (outlined) feet then '2m' then two (outlined) feet. And the two pairs of feet were roughly two feet apart, not two metres apart.

    I'd like to think this was satirical because that would be very clever, but I suspect local children just don't know what a metre is. When the schools reopen the first lesson should explain lengths. Children can't stay one or two metres apart if they don't know what a metre is.

    My pal is a primary school teacher and I've been (half) jokingly suggesting post-lockdown safety measures. Teach them all outdoors and issue ponchos and thermal underwear. Expel every child who is athletic, talented, good looking or intelligent as these children thrive without qualifications.

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