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Amazon creates electronic vests to improve worker/robot interactions

Over the course of the last year, Amazon began rolling out a new worker-safety, wearable vest to more than 25 sites. The Robotic Tech Vest really looks like a pair of suspenders attached to an electronic utility belt.

The Amazon Robotics-designed product was created to keep workers safe when they need to enter a space in order to fix a robotic system or retrieve fallen items. Built-in sensors alert Amazon’s robotic systems to the wearer’s presence, and they slow down to avoid collision. The vest is designed to work in tandem with the robots’ existing obstacle avoidance detection.

“All of our robotic systems employ multiple safety systems ranging from training materials, to physical barriers to entry, to process controls, to on-board,” Amazon Robotics VP Brad Porter told TechCrunch.

Safety has, of course, become a major concern when it comes to dealing with human/robotic interactions at the work place. As OSHA notes, “Studies indicate that many robot accidents occur during non-routine operating conditions, such as programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment. During many of these operations the worker may temporarily be within the robot’s working envelope where unintended operations could result in injuries.”

As robot and human collaborations become increasingly commonplace, it’s a good idea to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach to working alongside these big metal machines.

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