Amazon is addressing one of the most irritating things about Alexa, and it could be critical to maintaining dominance over Google

  • Amazon says its Alexa voice assistant will soon be able to memorize a question it can’t answer and then come back to you once it’s fetched an adequate response.
  • The new Answer Updates is being rolled out over the coming days, and it could help solve one of the most frustrating things about Echo smart speakers.
  • It could also ensure Amazon maintains its dominance over Google Home.

Amazon says its Alexa voice assistant will soon be able to come back to you with a response to a question it can’t initially answer.

The company is rolling out an update to Echo smart speakers that is essentially meant to allow Alexa to memorize a question it can’t answer and then come back to the user once it’s fetched an adequate response.

The feature was first spotted by Voicebot. The writer Bret Kinsella was asked by his Alexa whether he wanted to activate Answer Updates. When he asked what this was, Alexa replied: “If you ask me a question and I don’t know the answer but I find out later, I’ll notify you.”

Amazon later confirmed to TechCrunch that Answer Updates was being rolled out over the coming days. It could add a layer of sophistication to Alexa, which today often replies to queries with something like, “Sorry, I didn’t understand the question.”

According to TechCrunch, users will be able to opt in and out of the feature after it is available on their device. “The Alexa service is getting smarter every day, and Answer Updates is just another way we’re continuing to expand Alexa’s Knowledge Graph,” an Amazon representative said.

The Knowledge Graph is the information database Alexa uses to answer questions. The database is generally considered inferior to the system used by Google Home, thanks to Google’s search-engine history.

The idea that Google Home can understand you better may be more attractive in some customers’ eyes, and it could partly explain why Google Home is eating into Echo’s dominance in the smart-speaker market. eMarketer found that 66% of US smart-speaker users used an Amazon Echo at least once a month, compared with 29.5% who used Google Home. It predicted that Google’s share of the market would grow to 33% by 2020, with Amazon’s decreasing to 60%.

Tweaks like Answer Updates could help Amazon maintain its lead.