Amazon Alexa is now crowdsourcing answers from random users

Amazon Echo (2017)
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Starting today, Amazon is trialling a new crowdsourcing program for its Alexa smart assistant - one that will look to users like you to fill in the gaps of its knowledge. (No pressure.)

The Alexa Answers program has begun inviting select customers to take part in the beta, which allows you to browse through unanswered questions on various topics - science, technology, trivia, and the like - and offer your two cents. 

Those answers are then offered up to other users who can vote the suggestion up or down in order to rate its accuracy or helpfulness. There's no claim to fame for upvoted answers, sadly, but Alexa will let you know if its used "an Amazon customer" as a source.

There are naturally filters for keeping out profane language; there will always be those determined to muck around, though we imagine Alexa will be able to prevent 'unhelpful' users from submitting ever more answers.

Help a brother out

For a smart assistant whose main use is in offering information to those who need it, Alexa sure can get things wrong.

Alexa uses a variety of sources for gathering information from across the web - via Bing searches, online dictionaries, or crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia - with the margins for error that entails.

The key thing to remember is that the internet is littered with mistakes and misinformation, and that inevitably trickles down to the answers users find on Google, Wikipedia, social media, and naturally AI like Alexa or Siri. Amazon already relies on human-sourced reviews for rating and advertising its products, so the Alexa Answers program is in some ways just a natural extension of that philosophy.

Whether adding another human element to the mix will make things better, or worse, will depend on how motivated users are to help.

Via The Verge (opens in new tab)

Henry is a freelance technology journalist. Before going freelance, he spent more than three years at TechRadar reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines also include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.