Update 08/08/2018: Amazon has reached out to TechTheLead. “This patent application has nothing to do with surveilling employees. Technology has empowered and enabled workplaces throughout human history. 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 achieves 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”, the company told us.
A newly filled patent by Amazon describes a ‘wearable computing device’ that would show turn by turn directions on the screen, helping the employees figure out where to place various objects within the Amazon warehouses. While the patent was filed in March 2017, it has only became publicly available this Thursday.
This patent seems to not sit very well with privacy advocates who are convinced the goggles will be used to track every move of the employees.
It is not the first time Amazon comes under fire concerning the working conditions in its warehouses, with multiple employees issuing complaints. They say that they rarely have time for anything during their 15 minute-breaks and avoid using the restrooms so they won’t be penalized for the few minutes away from work.
Of course, Amazon was quick to defend the patent, stating that the goggles will only serve as a way to improve employee experience and save them from carrying around the scanners they normally use in order to locate items for the customer orders.
In spite of that, the patent does describe that the goggles are going to prompt the employees that are not moving to get back to work: ‘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.’
Sure, Amazon does describe the technology as being ‘time-saving’ but the critics abound, and it’s not hard to see why.