Alexa Answers Crowdsources Knowledge Alexa Lacks
Amazon released its information crowdsourcing feature Alexa Answers to the general public this week after a nine-month beta test. Alexa Answers shares questions that the voice assistant doesn’t know how to answer with participants and uses their responses to shape how Alexa will respond to the question next time.
Gamifying Database Growth
When an Alexa user asks the voice assistant a question that it can’t answer, the query is added to a list on the Alexa Answers page. Then people can browse the unanswered questions and submit answers for any that they choose. The topics range across music, pop culture, science, history, and other areas of human knowledge.
Amazon hasn’t explicitly explained how it selects the answers it will add to Alexa’s knowledge graph, but there is a system of thumbs up and down on the Alexa Answers page, and users can flag answers they think are wrong or inappropriate. When chosen, the answer gets a ‘live’ status and Alexa can respond to the question with the user-submitted answer, including giving the user credit. After answering the query, Alexa also asks if the answer was helpful as another way of vetting answers.
Since the invite-only beta began, the answers to hundreds of thousands of questions have been shared by Alexa millions of times according to Amazon. To encourage people to participate, Amazon has turned answering questions into a game with points and a leaderboard. There isn’t any tangible reward for the points beyond digital badges and bragging rights as of yet.
Answering questions is the most popular smart speaker feature, even beating out playing music, according to Voicebot’s research. Making Alexa a hub of knowledge is a logical way for Amazon to grab more of the market. Alexa even has an Answer Updates feature that promises to get back to a user with an answer it doesn’t have yet.
Crowdsourcing veracity makes sense for Amazon in order to make Alexa smarter and using human answers to questions could also make her seem less robotic. That would be problematic if Amazon’s smart speakers are to maintain their market share lead. On the other hand, beefing up the Alexa database would help it stand out against other voice assistants. Google Assistant consistently beats Alexa in the yearly IQ test run by Loup Ventures, but Alexa Answers could counter with millions of minds in support.