Alexa Answers Crowdsourcing Arrives in the UK
Amazon has expanded its voice-based information crowdsourcing Alexa Answers to the United Kingdom. The feature asks the general public to help answer questions posed to the voice assistant that it doesn’t have an answer for, building the database of knowledge it can use to respond to those same questions in the future.
Alexa device owners use the voice assistant to answer questions more than any other single task, according to Voicebot’s research, and Amazon claims to have added a billion data points in the last year to help do so. But, the voice assistant doesn’t always have an answer, and may not understand the question as it is phrased. Alexa even has an Answer Updates feature that promises to get back to a user with an answer it doesn’t have yet. When the voice assistant can’t answer, the question is transcribed and put on the Alexa Answers page for people to browse and share responses. Amazon breaks down the questions by topic, encompassing pretty much every facet of human knowledge, from music and movies to science, history, and obscure trivia.
Once the various answers are submitted, Amazon has an undisclosed method for incorporating some of them into Alexa as the answer when the question is asked again. One way it tries to limit mistakes or deliberately misleading answers is a system of thumbs up and down on the Alexa Answers page, which also gives users the option to flag inappropriate or wrong answers. After being added to Alexa’s responses, the answer is marked live, and it may be used the next time Alexa is asked the question, with credit given to the user in the response. After answering the query, Alexa also asks if the answer was helpful as another way of checking answers.
The whole Alexa Answers setup is built to encourage people to participate, with points for every answer provided and digital badges for the amount and quality of responses. Alexa has shared answers submitted by users millions of times since Alexa Answers launched in the U.S. last September after nine months of beta testing. The UK launch is likely aimed at expanding the answers to questions commonly asked by and about Britain. The British version of Alexa Answers includes questions about spending old pound coins, who won the Great British Sewing Bee this year, and where conkers come from.
Alexa Answers follows a spate of new voice-related products and investments in the UK by Amazon. Amazon has begun looking for early-stage voice tech startups in the country to fund with VGC Partners, a venture capital firm based in London, and launched the British Alexa Incubator Program as a vehicle for the companies it finds. And the UK was one of the first countries outside the U.S. to start selling the Echo Auto device, integrating Alexa into people’s cars. Alexa Answers could be a useful way to further entrench Amazon’s voice assistant in the country.
“We still have a way to go to achieve our vision of answering every question in all forms from anywhere in the world,” Amazon said in its announcement. “But with the launch of Alexa Answers, we’re excited to empower the Alexa community in the UK to make Alexa even more helpful and informative on behalf of customers.”