AMAZON HAS ACCEPTED that there are some things Alexa can't answer. To be quite frank, you could fill several Amazon warehouses with the things Alexa doesn't know, but the company is trying to fill in its knowledge gaps with the wisdom of crowds. It's inviting members of the public to provide answers that Alexa will read out instead of its usual refrain of "Hmmm, I don't know that one."
It's not clear how much these answers will be vetted by Amazon staff before they go live, but in a tacit acknowledgement that people will treat this as a virtual toilet wall ripe for graffiti, any third-party answer will come cited as "from an Amazon customer." So if you find Alexa confidently telling you that Sylvester Stallone played Rocky Balboa in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you'll know exactly who to blame.
Helping Alexa with its revision is currently an invitation-only affair, so as not to let in people intent on making Amazon swear like a sailor that has just dropped an anchor on his toe. But if you are invited, you'll face a veritable pub quiz of questions asked by real people just waiting for you to fill in the gaps. According to Amazon, these questions cover everything "from science to geography to music".
In a blog post, Amazon's Bill Barton gives a taster of the kind of questions you can expect. "How many birds migrate? What is Juniper syrup? Where is the most snowfall? Where was the world's largest wave surfed? How long does it take for an ice cube tray to freeze?"
If you, like us, scored 0/5 there, you're probably not the kind of person Amazon is looking for. But given the sheer number of people who answer product questions on the site with not sure", we can't help thinking that volunteers aren't going to let a little thing like ignorance get in the way of "helping". µ
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