Amazon has expanded Alexa Answers from crowdsourcing voice-based information to the UK. This feature asks the general public to help answer unanswered questions posed to voice assistants, building a knowledge database that can be used to answer the same questions in the future.
Time to ask
Alexa device owners use voice assistants to answer questions more than any other single task, according to Voicebot research, and Amazon claims to have added one billion data points in the last year to help do that. However, voice assistants do not always have answers, and may not understand spoken questions. Alexa even has Answer Update a feature that promises to return the user to an answer he doesn’t yet have. When the voice assistant can’t answer, questions are transcribed and placed on the Alexa Answers page for people to search for and share responses. Amazon breaks down questions by topic, covering nearly every aspect of human knowledge, from music and film to science, history, and the obscure trivia.
After various answers have been submitted, Amazon has an undisclosed method of plugging some of them into Alexa as answers when questions are asked again. One way to limit errors or intentionally misleading answers is the thumbs up and down system on the Alexa Answers page, which also gives users the option to flag answers as inappropriate or incorrect. Once added to an Alexa response, the answer is tagged straight away, and can be used the next time Alexa is asked the question, with credit given to the user in the response. After answering the question, Alexa also asks if the answer is helpful as another way to check answers.
The entire Alexa Answers setup is designed to encourage people to participate, with a point for each answer given and a digital badge for the number and quality of responses. Alexa has shared answers submitted by users a million times since Alexa Answers launched in the US last September after nine months beta testing. The launch in the UK is likely to aim to broaden answers to frequently asked questions by and about the UK. The UK version of Alexa Answers includes questions about spending old pound coins, this year’s winner of the British Sewing Bee, and where the conker came from.
Alexa Answers follows Amazon’s new suite of voice-related products and investments in the UK. Amazon has started looking for early stage voice technology startups in the country to fund with VGC Partners, a venture capital firm based in London, and launched the UK’s Alexa Incubator Program as a vehicle for the companies it found. And Britain is one of the first countries outside the US to start selling Echo Auto devices, integrating Alexa into people’s cars. Alexa Answers could be a useful way to further strengthen Amazon’s voice assistant in this country.
“We still have a way to achieve our vision of answering any question of any kind from anywhere in the world,” Amazon said in the announcement. “But with the launch of Alexa Answers, we are very excited to empower the Alexa community in the UK to make Alexa more useful and informative on behalf of customers.”
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