Amazon Alexa is Testing Answer Updates Feature That Will Notify Users When it Learns a New Answer
- Amazon Alexa Answer Updates is a new feature that will notify users when it learns the answer to a previously asked question
- It is confirmed that the feature is rolling out to users in the U.S. and you can activate it proactively by saying “Alexa, enable Answer Updates.”
- Amazon is working to improve its knowledge graph to close the gap with Google Assistant and getting as many questions as possible will help Alexa determine what it should know.
This article was updated at 11:45 pm on August 6th to include confirmation from Amazon about the feature and input from Reddit users on accessing the new service.
Alexa was initially famous for being able to answer some questions, but to often say some variant of, “I don’t know that, but I’m always learning,” “I can’t find the answer to the question I heard,” or “Sorry, I didn’t understand the question.” Sometimes, Alexa would suggest users check back later to see if Alexa had learned the answer. Amazon’s voice assistant can now answer many more questions than when it first launched, but users will still run into situations where Alexa cannot answer the question. Alexa Answer Updates appear intended to address that issue.
I first came across Answer Updates this morning. After listening to some information about a news item, Alexa said that sometimes she doesn’t have answers to questions and would I like to activate Answer Updates. When I asked what this was, Alexa responded:
If you ask me a question and I don’t know the answer but I find out later, I’ll notify you.
It also indicated I could disable Answer Updates if I no longer wished to receive them. However, there doesn’t appear to be a setting in the Alexa app to deactivate this feature. Thankfully, a Reddit user confirmed that saying, “Alexa, enable Answer Updates,” will activate the service. Saying, “Alexa, turn off Answer Updates,” should deactivate it. This may not be available to all Alexa users today.
Alexa as an Information Service
The most common smart speaker feature tried by consumers is to ask a question. It is also a top three feature used on a monthly and daily basis according to smart speaker owners.
However, studies show that Alexa trails Google Assistant by s significant margin in the breadth of questions it can answer according to two recent studies from Stone Temple and Loup Ventures. Amazon is working to close this gap and Stone Temple reported that the number of questions Alexa attempted to answer of a list of 5,000 more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. That is good progress, but consumers may not know that Alexa is getting smarter and can now answer their questions. Answer Updates will enable Alexa to demonstrate its expanding knowledge base to users.
How will Users be Notified?
It is not clear how users will be notified when Alexa has an answer update. Amazon has a notifications features within Alexa that could used. Alternative contact methods would be a text message or email. Both channels are used for other types of notifications to Alexa users. I have reached out to Amazon for clarification on Answer Updates and will update this article when more information is available. If you come across this feature yourself, please let me know on Twitter.
An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed to TechCrunch that Answer Updates is rolling out over the next week to users. “The Alexa service is getting smarter every day, and Answer Updates is just another way we’re continuing to expand Alexa’s Knowledge Graph,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch. The article went on to say, “[Amazon] also clarified the prompt would be triggered when you ask Alexa a factual question she didn’t yet know the answer to, not after listening to a news item or other information about a news item. The prompt will be offered randomly to customers.”
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