Amazon is reportedly testing a new AI assistant on its mobile app that can answer customer questions about specific products.
This feature appears to have been initially discovered by e-commerce research firm Marketplace Pulse. According to the firm, the AI can be found under the “Looking for specific info?” section on product pages. The LLM (large language model) powering the feature relies on listing details provided by companies and user reviews to generate responses to inquiries. For example, you can ask if a particular workout shirt is good for running or if it fits well on a tall person. Marketplace Pulse states its main purpose is to save people the trouble of having to read individual reviews by summarizing all the information present into a succinct block of text.
Because it’s in the early stages, the AI assistant is limited in what it can do. You can’t command it to compare two items or “find alternatives.” Although it can’t recommend specific products, Amazon’s chatbot can make soft suggestions. In another example, MarketPlace Pulse asked the app assistant if e-bikes are good for romantic dates. The AI said “not really” and recommended buying a tandem bike instead.
Quirks and unintended features
There are several quirks affecting the chatbot. Unsurprisingly, it’s “prone [to] hallucinating wrong information” about an item. MarketPlace Pulse even claims it outright refused to “answer basic questions”. What’s more, the assistant is capable of answering prompts that apparently “Amazon didn’t build it for.”
It can generate Python code, write jokes about a product, or answer in languages besides English. CNBC had access to the test and was reportedly successful in describing items “in the style of Yoda from Star Wars.” Despite these abilities, you can’t hold a regular conversation with the AI like you could with ChatGPT.
It’s unknown how widespread the test is. We didn’t have access on our phone. Amazon hasn’t said anything official so far, but we reached out to the platform asking for more information about the AI. We also asked Marketplace Pulse if it knows whether the assistant is available to a lot of people or just a select group. This story will be updated at a later time.
Amazon’s AI ambitions don’t stop there as a report from Business Insider reveals the tech giant is currently working on a revamped and paid version of Alexa. The upgrade is called Alexa Plus, which is said to offer a “more conversational and personalized” experience akin to ChatGPT.
The team is aiming to launch Alexa Plus on June 30, according to the report. Unfortunately, development is not going smoothly. A source with intimate knowledge told Business Insider the revamp is “falling short of expectations”. The AI is reportedly hallucinating false information as the team is having a hard time getting the tech to work properly. The project may also be causing a lot of internal fighting with some arguing people are not going to want to pay for another Amazon service.
At a glance, it seems Alexa Plus might miss the June 30 deadline.
If you want your own digital sidekick, check out TechRadar’s list of the best AI-powered virtual assistants.