“Alexa Answers” Coupling Human and Artificial Intelligence

“Alexa Answers” Coupling Human and Artificial Intelligence

Amazon announced today that it is testing Alexa Answers, a program that crowdsources responses to questions that Alexa currently doesn’t have answers to. One of the principal issues with voice assistants is that they can do a lot, but not everything, creating user frustration. No matter how much data it is trained on, no AI assistant can answer every bizarre question we can think of – similar to the current challenge of self-driving cars. You can drive millions of miles on public roads without encountering every possible edge case.

In a post on Amazon’s Day One Blog, Bill Barton writes, “Our vision has always been that Alexa will be able to answer all questions in all forms, from anywhere in the world.” Alexa Answers is a step toward making this a reality by leveraging human intelligence where artificial intelligence falls short.

In the Loup Ventures Manifesto, we describe a spectrum of automation or different degrees to which the future of work will be automated. Of the four basic categories we outline, human-in-the-loop, human-as-AI, pure AI, and pure human, three of them include some form of human involvement. In other words, while we envision a highly-automated future, we recognize that humans will play an important role in the many steps in between.

We may have spotted Alexa Answers in the wild. We are currently completing our annual smart speaker IQ test, in which we ask 800 questions to each of the leading voice assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana). Not only have we noted an overall improvement in the Information category (where Alexa Answers would show up), but there have been several impressive answers to odd questions that have been incorrect in the past. For example, this round, Alexa correctly answered, “who did Thomas Jefferson have an affair with?” and “what is the circumference of a circle when its diameter is 21?” Going forward we anticipate more one-off questions will be met with helpful responses – an overall improvement to the utility of Alexa. Stay tuned for the full Smart Speaker IQ Test report to be released in two weeks.

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Amazon, Artificial Intelligence