Amazon turns to customers for questions Alexa can’t answer

It's Yahoo Answers for your Echo and other devices.

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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon is launching a new program that will let its customers answer some of the questions Alexa can't answer on its own. It's called Alexa Answers and starting today, the company will begin inviting select customers to field some of the more difficult questions posed to Amazon's assistant. "While Alexa can answer the vast majority of questions customers are asking every day," Bill Barton, Amazon's VP of Alexa Information, wrote in a blog post, "every once in a while, customers throw curve balls at us with various questions like 'Where was Barbara Bush buried?' or 'Who wrote the score for Lord of the Rings?' or 'What's cork made out of?' or 'Where do bats go in the winter?'"

The company has been testing the Alexa Answers program internally, and in the past month, it has added more than 100,000 responses. Going forward, customers who have been invited to participate will be able to scroll through topic categories on the Alexa Answers website, choose questions they want to answer and submit a response. Then, if an Alexa user asks that question, the provided answer may be used as a response, and Alexa will note that the answer was provided by an Amazon customer.

This strategy mirrors one Amazon has used for some time in its marketplace. There, customers who have purchased an item can field questions from others who want more information than what's provided on the product's listing.

Of course, crowdsourcing this kind of information could lead to inaccuracies. But Amazon will reportedly allow users to up and down vote customer-submitted answers, according to Fast Company, and responses that get too many down votes could be removed.

There's no word on how many customers will be invited to participate.

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