In December 2018, Amazon launched Alexa Answers, a service that allows people to share information that might then be distributed to the millions of Alexa users around the world. Amazon describes it as a way for people to address questions that haven’t yet been answered (like nuanced factual queries and those that lack a clear or consistent response), and it said the vetted snippets collected through the program would be attributed to the Alexa customers who submitted them.
Today, after several months of invitation-only preview, Alexa Answers is now generally available.
Interested folks can sign up with their Amazon account and view a list of questions available to be answered, after which they’ll be able to filter questions based on things like most frequently asked questions, newest questions, and topic areas. Once they’ve submitted an answer, they can earn points toward monthly and weekly leaderboards and badges based on how many questions they’ve answered, how often their answer has been shared with Alexa customers, and more.
Contributors can also flag answers that they think are incorrect using a star-based rating system. As for questions that receive more than one answer, Amazon says that Alexa may rotate between them until a single contribution is determined to be more useful than the others, as determined by feedback.
Hundreds of thousands of answers have already been shared with Alexa customers millions of times, according to Amazon.
“We’re thrilled by the response from community members to date … This new feature is just one example of the many ways we’re continuously working to grow Alexa’s knowledge,” an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “We hope customers find it fun and engaging. As always, we’ll continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback.”
Amazon has a history of drawing on customers’ knowledge to improve Alexa. For instance, in order to help the intelligent assistant learn new languages, the Seattle company two years ago released Cleo, a gamified voice app that records exchanges with people who speak some of the world’s most spoken languages — like French, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese.
But Answers is one of Amazon’s latest attempts to build upon the assistant’s base of knowledge. This past summer, Amazon began sourcing hours of operation, descriptions, and addresses from Yext, a data management platform that counts Taco Bell, Arby’s, Marriott, and Rite Aid among its clients. More recently, Amazon integrated Alexa with Wolfram Research’s Wolfram Alpha computational engine to improve its math and science know-how.
Amazon’s efforts appear to be having the intended effect. In an experiment conducted by Loup Ventures in August, Google Assistant was able to answer 92.9% of 800 questions correctly versus Apple’s Siri at 83.1% and Alexa at 79.8%. (Notably, Alexa showed an improvement of 18.8 percentage points from a July 2018 test.)