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Amazon builds vest for workers to protect them from robots

Indy 100 logo Indy 100 22/01/2019 Chris Mandle
a close up of a box © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Amazon has developed a piece of wearable technology for its workers that will protect them from robot-related accidents.

The Robotic Tech Vest is designed for Amazon employees working in warehouse fulfilment centres alongside autonomous robots.

Featuring built-in sensors, the electronic belt provides warning alerts to nearby robots to inform them of a worker's presence.

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Its deployment across more than 25 Amazon sites follows incidents in which workers were injured as a result of a robot's actions.

In December, 24 Amazon workers at a warehouse in New Jersey were hospitalised after a robot reportedly punctured a can of bear repellent.

The can was pierced by one of the autonomous machines working in the warehouse after it was accidentally knocked off a shelf.

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"The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway," Amazon said in a statement at the time.

An Amazon spokesperson was not immediately available for comment but the company's vice president for robotics Brad Porter told TechCrunch that the Robotic Tech Vest would compliment existing safety measures.

"All of our robotic systems employ multiple safety systems ranging from training materials, to physical barriers to entry, to process controls, to on-board," he said.

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"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."

According to Mr Porter, the vests have already logged "more than one million unique activations" since being deployed.

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