Amazon has patented a pair of augmented reality goggles. This also raises alarms that the company could use the new tech to keep a close eye on its employee. The patent describes a 'wearable computing device' that would navigate the employees' turn-by-turn showing them where to place certain objects in one of the company's fulfillment centers.
However, the goggles laid out in the patent has raised the ire of privacy advocates who think the goggles can be used for a different purpose, such as tracking employees' every move. Amazon has previously faced criticism for the working conditions at its fulfillment warehouses. The employees have complained that they don't get enough breaks during the day, even to go to the washroom.
Amazon, in its defense, said the patent has 'nothing to do' with surveilling employees. 'Technology has empowered and enabled workplaces throughout human history,' an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.
'Smart glasses and head-up displays are already helping people in lots of ways - providing doctors with information to perform surgery, drivers with information to help them drive safely, and athletes with information to achieve their goals.'
'We are always thinking of ways that innovation can further improve the employee experience - such as this conceptual idea for augmented reality glasses that would free up fulfillment center associates' hands from carrying the hand-held scanners commonly used in warehouses around the world to locate items for customers.
Amazon filed the patent in March 2017, but just became publicly available on August 2, 2018. The AR goggles will connect to a smart device that would be worn by the employee.
'For example, if a location of a worker within a fulfillment center can be determined, location-specific information, such as, for example, turn-by-turn directions to a destination within the fulfillment center, can be rendered in the user interface,' according to the patent, which is titled 'Augmented reality user interface facilitating fulfillment.'
'A destination within the fulfillment center can include a particular floor, row, shelf, bin, or a particular item or product that is stocked within the fulfillment center,' the patent continues.
Additionally, the glasses will also project specific instructions for workers, such as 'remove the orange box from shelving unit on the left.' The goggles might also instruct workers to place a particular item at a specific place in the warehouse.
'In some embodiments, the wearable computing device can be configured to provide worker instructions and/or visual indicators to a worker wearing the wearable computing device who is not moving,' the patent states.
Amazon might call the technology as 'time-saving,' but it raises a lot of privacy concerns, and might have taken a step too far for monitoring the performance.