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Amazon created a 'vest' that alerts robots to a human's presence

By Cal Jeffrey · 8 replies
Jan 18, 2019
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  1. Amazon has been working to improve safety conditions in its facilities over the last several years. Just this last year the company has implemented a new device which will help robots recognize human workers in order to avoid collisions.

    The wearable is called the Robotic Tech Vest, but it is more like a belt with suspenders than a full vest. It was designed by Amazon Robotics primarily for workers who need to enter certain areas to fix robotic systems or pick up items that have fallen.

    The vest has beacons that let facility robotics systems know that a human is nearby, TechCrunch notes. The robots will then slow down to avoid collisions with humans. The feature works in tandem with current obstacle avoidance systems.

    Amazon Robotics VP Brad Porter explained how it works more explicitly.

    “All of our robotic systems employ multiple safety systems ranging from training materials, to physical barriers to entry, to process controls, to on-board. In the past, associates would mark out the grid of cells where they would be working in order to enable the robotic traffic planner to smartly route around that region. What the vest allows the robots to do is detect the human from farther away and smartly update its travel plan to steer clear without the need for the associate to explicitly mark out those zones.”

    Amazon has faced fierce criticism over safety not only within its distribution facilities but also within the facilities of its suppliers, and not without cause. Just last month, several workers were hospitalized when a robot accidentally set off a canister of bear repellant within a confined space in a fulfillment center.

    While the new beaconing vest will not prevent a robot from puncturing a can of pepper spray, it will address the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) primary concern — the when and where of the preponderance of robot/human accidents.

    “Studies indicate that many robot accidents occur during non-routine operating conditions, such as programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment,” OSHA noted in a recent publication on robotics. “During many of these operations the worker may temporarily be within the robot’s working envelope where unintended operations could result in injuries.”

    Amazon has deployed the technology in over 25 sites so far. Porter says that tests of the vest have proven very successful with over one million unique activations.

    Image via TechCrunch

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019
  2. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,458   +1,034

    Definitely a good idea to supplement organic data processing with something more precise.
    Evernessince likes this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,385   +3,775

    I'll bet every one of their fulfillment center managers wants one of these that repels the workers that complain!
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  4. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,237   +896

    Instead of a vest...how about something workers would normally always be wearing like helmets or safety glasses?
  5. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 722   +559

    So now they shut down when they detect blood?? ;)

    These use the same concept (autonomy) as autonomous cars being put out on the street, except they look to be about 3000 lbs lighter and much slower. Less of a threat. Well unless you consider bear spray in a confined room. At least that wasn't lethal. :)
  6. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,653   +319

    Now those scheming robots can know when to behave normally. Plus it probably helps for targeting.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,382   +5,010

    I can't figure out just how pathetic I want my vote to be for this. I'm not sure the scale goes high enough.
  8. bLasphemyNBD

    bLasphemyNBD TS Rookie

    This isnt new...amazon amnesty crew have been wearing these for a year now.
  9. yup, soon as the vest is detected the cry goes forth 'human!' and the robots act like, well robots. Then when the human leaves......

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