Digital assistants are becoming more intelligent over the years, but they're still far from perfect. For instance, Amazon Alexa can answer most questions users throw at it but gets stumped sometimes too.
When that happens, users are often left with no recourse. They could either ask it again or just look it up manually on a search engine, which corrodes the entire point of having a voice-based digital assistant.
Amazon Alexa Gets Answer Update Feature
That's going to change soon, though. Amazon has confirmed that a new feature is coming to Alexa devices called "Answer Update." If a user asks Alexa a question that it doesn't have enough information to answer yet, the feature will take that query in the back burner and notify the user once it does learn the answer.
Digital assistant blog Voicebot was the first to discover the feature. A user asked Alexa a question it didn't know the answer to, and it responded by saying that sometimes it doesn't have the answers to questions. Alexa followed up by asking the user if they want to toggle on Answer Updates. The user then asked Alexa to define what that is, and it said, "If you ask me a question and I don't know the answer but I find out later, I'll notify you."
Typically, when Alexa doesn't know the answer to a certain query, it will respond in different ways — but this is the first time Alexa has been given the ability to issue rain checks. Now, Alexa will send on-device notifications when it learns answers for previously unanswerable questions. As The Verge notes, that's an indication Amazon is actively trying to plug holes in Alexa's underlying knowledge graph.
Google Also Has This Feature, Sort Of
The feature isn't exactly new, though. The standalone Google Search app also does something like this, but in a different context. Suppose a user asks Google a question, but either there's no Wi-Fi or the connection is spotty, Google will then save that question and deliver search results once the user moves within range of a decent network.
Amazon Updates will be triggered when users ask Alexa a question it can't answer, according to a spokesperson for Amazon. To turn it on manually, simply tell Alexa to "turn on Answer Update." The feature will be opt-in and should roll out to all Alexa users over the next week.
Have you encountered Answer Update in your day-to-day Alexa interactions? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!