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Amazon staff wear special belts to avoid robot injuries

04 February 2019

Amazon staff in the US are now being made to wear special belts to stop robot colleagues from inadvertently injuring them.

Amazon staff wear special belts to avoid robot injuries (Credit: Amazon/TechCrunch)

With more than 100,000 robots in its warehouses, worker safety needs to be a top priority for Amazon – especially since a number of human-robot incidents have been reported. According to the Mirror, in December, 12 Amazon workers were sent to hospital following incidents involving a robot.

The Robotic Tech Vest is Amazon's latest safety solution and it works by simply making the wearer visible to nearly robots – each belt gives off a signal, which the robot recognises and navigates around. 

Amazon Robotics VP Brad Porter told TechCrunch, "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.”

So far, the belts have been successfully piloted at 25 sites.

Earl Yardley, Director at Industrial Vision Systems, has commented:

"This demonstrates the growing importance to fully equip robots with vision skills to help them understand and extract information from real-world environments. Companies should implement industrial vision systems to ensure the zone in which human workers and robots are working side by side is carefully monitored day and night using the latest artificial intelligence vision technology. The standard protocol behind vision-equipped robots is to ensure they assist a business in reaching both quantitative and qualitative targets; product inspections, the delivery of high-quality products, identification of faults, and – in turn – an improvement of the business' bottom line. However, we have entered a new and exciting world where human workers and robots are quite rightly working side by side and without barriers. This is the way it should be because it's a win-win for all. Vision guidance is a valuable addition to production lines that consist of multiproduct assembly, part tracking, loading and unloading, two-handed work, and assembly of alternate parts. However, it is also clear that intelligent robots with “eyes” are still needed to reassure even the largest of global brands that their human workers are deployed in a safe working environment."

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