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Posted 10 Dec 2020


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AI Social Distancing Detector: Finding People That Are Too Close

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10 Dec 2020CPOL3 min read
In this article, we will use those centers to estimate distances between people and indicate people that are too close.
Here we will connect the AI model with calculations that find people violating social distancing rules.

In this article, we continue developing a Python console application for an AI-powered social distancing detector. After learning how to detect people's locations in an image, we are ready to calculate the distances between them and indicate which people are too close to each other.

As shown in the image below, if the distance between two people is below a predefined threshold, those people will be outlined with red rectangles. The complete companion code is here.

Calculating the Distance Between Two Points

We start by creating a method to calculate the distance between two people. To do so, we calculate the Euclidean distance between the centers of two bounding boxes:

def calculate_distance_between_rectangle_centers(rect_center_1, rect_center_2):        
    # Calculate absolute difference between x and y coordinates
    x_abs_diff = abs(rect_center_1[0] - rect_center_2[0])
    y_abs_diff = abs(rect_center_1[1] - rect_center_2[1])
    # Calculate Euclidean distance
    return math.sqrt(x_abs_diff**2 + y_abs_diff**2)

The above function is a static method of the distance_analyzer module (see in the Part_06 folder).

Finding People That Are Too Close

To find people that are too close, we need to check the distance between each person. Virtually, we will need to perform a double loop. However, the distance between the ith and jth person is the same as for jth and ith person. So, the number of iterations in the nested for loop can be reduced from j=1..N to j=i+1..N. Here is the complete implementation of a method that, given the list of detected people, finds those who are too close (also see

def find_people_that_are_too_close(detection_results, distance_threshold):        
    # Prepare results' list
    results = []
    # Get rectangle centers
    rectangle_centers = DistanceAnalyzer.get_rectangle_centers(detection_results)        
    # Analyze distance between each object
    N = len(detection_results)
    for i in range(N):
        for j in range(i+1, N):                
            rect_center_1 = rectangle_centers[i]
            rect_center_2 = rectangle_centers[j]
            distance = DistanceAnalyzer.calculate_distance_between_rectangle_centers(
                rect_center_1, rect_center_2)
            # If distance between objects is too close
            # append centers to the results' list
            if(distance <= distance_threshold):
    return results

The method accepts two parameters:

  • detection_results – The list of detected people returned by the AI model. Note that each element in that list contains an object that holds the detection score, bounding box, and label.
  • distance_threshold – Specifies how close the people can be in the image (measured in pixels). If the calculated distance between people is below this value, the bounding boxes will be added to the returned results list.

Given the input parameters, the method finds centers of the bounding boxes and then calculates the distances between them. It returns the rectangles surrounding the people who are too close. Let's see how to display those rectangles in the image.

Showing Who Is Not Social Distancing

To indicate people who are too close, we can use OpenCV's rectangle function, as explained earlier. The code might look very similar to the code we used to draw bounding boxes and labels for objects detected in the image. However, as input, we take the list returned by find_people_that_are_too_close. Remember, that method returns a list in which each element contains two rectangles. These rectangles are the bounding boxes of people violating social distancing rules (distance_threshold).

We need to iterate over elements in that list and display two rectangles at a time (see the image_helper module from Part_03):

def indicate_people_that_are_too_close(image, people_that_are_too_close, delay=0):
    # Prepare window
    opencv.namedWindow(common.WINDOW_NAME, opencv.WINDOW_GUI_NORMAL)
    # Iterate over objects (that is a pair of rectangle_points)
    for i in range(len(people_that_are_too_close)):
        # Draw each rectangle
        for j in range(len(people_that_are_too_close[i])):
            rectangle_points = people_that_are_too_close[i][j]
            opencv.rectangle(image, rectangle_points[0], rectangle_points[1], 
                common.RED, common.LINE_THICKNESS)
    # Display image
    opencv.imshow(common.WINDOW_NAME, image)
    # Wait until the user presses any key

As shown above, we use the namedWindow function to create the window and imshow to display the image. The other components are nearly the same as in the case of indicating detected objects.

Putting Things Together

With all of the above pieces, we can create the main script as follows (see in the Part_07 folder):

import sys
sys.path.insert(1, '../Part_03/')
sys.path.insert(1, '../Part_05/')
sys.path.insert(1, '../Part_06/')
from inference import Inference as model
from image_helper import ImageHelper as imgHelper
from video_reader import VideoReader as videoReader
from distance_analyzer import DistanceAnalyzer as analyzer
if __name__ == "__main__": 
    # Load and prepare model
    model_file_path = '../Models/01_model.tflite'
    labels_file_path = '../Models/02_labels.txt'
    # Initialize model
    ai_model = model(model_file_path, labels_file_path)    
    # Initialize video reader
    video_file_path = '../Videos/01.mp4'
    video_reader = videoReader(video_file_path)
    # Detection and preview parameters
    score_threshold = 0.4
    delay_between_frames = 5
    # Perform object detection in the video sequence
        # Get frame from the video file
        frame = video_reader.read_next_frame()
        # If frame is None, then break the loop
        if(frame is None):
        # Perform detection         
        results = ai_model.detect_people(frame, score_threshold) 
        # Find people that are too close
        proximity_distance_threshold = 50
        people_that_are_too_close = analyzer.find_people_that_are_too_close(
            results, proximity_distance_threshold)
        # Indicate those objects in the image       
            frame, people_that_are_too_close, delay_between_frames)

The script sets up the AI model, opens the sample video file, and then finds people who are too close. Here, I set the distance threshold to 50 pixels. You can freely experiment with this parameter. After running the, you will get the results shown in the introduction.

Wrapping Up

We have finally connected the AI model with calculations that find people violating social distancing rules. However, the model we've been using is not very robust, and sometimes the solution fails to correctly indicate people that are too close. We will fix that in the last article by incorporating a state-of-the-art YOLO detector.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Dawid Borycki
United States United States
Dawid Borycki is a software engineer and biomedical researcher with extensive experience in Microsoft technologies. He has completed a broad range of challenging projects involving the development of software for device prototypes (mostly medical equipment), embedded device interfacing, and desktop and mobile programming. Borycki is an author of two Microsoft Press books: “Programming for Mixed Reality (2018)” and “Programming for the Internet of Things (2017).”

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