Amazon announced today that it’s beta testing Alexa Answers, an invitation-only program for users to add responses for questions that Alexa can’t answer. Amazon says that in the last month of its internal Alexa Answers beta program, 100,000 responses have been added and served to customers “millions of times.”
Starting today, selected customers who have received email invitations can participate via the Alexa Answers website. Users can browse through various topic categories, like science and geography, and choose to answer questions that have been asked by other customers that Alexa doesn’t know the answers to. Those answers may then be served to other Alexa customers, and their answer will be attributed to “an Amazon customer.”
On its explanatory page, Amazon lists some sample questions that have stumped Alexa like, “Where was the world’s largest wave surfed?” and “Where was Barbara Bush buried?” It’s a little odd since most of the questions they list as examples seem as though they’d have straight answers that Alexa can find through its Bing-powered knowledge graph, which collects information from various sources. Still, the launch of the Answers beta program means that Amazon is thinking about other ways to make sure Alexa serves up more accurate answers than Wikipedia pages, which have a reputation of landing voice assistants in hot water for sourcing vandalized pages.
Fast Company reports that answers will be moderated through users voting up or down responses by accuracy and usefulness, and the answers also have to be 300 characters or less, so users have to keep their responses brief and concise. Amazon confirmed to The Verge that it’s invited its “most engaged Alexa customers and customer reviewers from Amazon.com” as the first participants, and has plans to expand the feature to more customers over time. There’s also automated filters that will help prevent “potentially offensive questions from surfacing on the Alexa Answers site, and to prevent profane or offensive words and topics from surfacing in answers.”
The Alexa Answers beta program launches today, and depending on how well it goes, maybe we’ll see it opened up to everyone soon.