Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

A small selection of Amazon customers can now interact with the “Rufus” AI chatbot. Rufus uses natural language to help you find, research, or compare products within the Amazon app. A staggered launch will bring Rufus to all Amazon customers over the coming weeks.

Rufus will appear at the bottom of your screen when searching for items in the Amazon mobile app. Once you expand the chat, you can ask Rufus to compare or explain products. You might ask if a smart TV supports voice commands, or if a wool suit needs to be dry-cleaned. Suggested follow-up questions will appear above your keyboard, and Rufus will link to any items it mentions.

For more immediate access to Rufus, type a question into the Amazon search bar. You could ask “What’s the best coffee maker?” or “What are some good Christmas presents for children?”. In theory, Rufus will save you from researching products on Google Search, YouTube, or TikTok. You’lll stay inside the Amazon app, so you won’t be distracted from shopping.

As for Rufus’ reliability or trustworthiness—well, that remains to be seen. If Rufus answers your questions incorrectly, it may convince you to buy a bad product. The AI may also be accused of false advertising if it overstates a product’s capabilities. Presumably, Rufus will warn customers that its output isn’t always accurate, as Amazon has already conceded that the AI “won’t always get it exactly right.”

Rufus’ training model includes information from the Amazon product catalog and the general web. Shady businesses love to “game” the Amazon website, so they may attempt to influence Rufus’ output by tainting its training data. This may be accomplished through misleading product listings or web articles. Of course, Rufus is new, so we don’t know how easily it will be manipulated.

On a lighter note, the Rufus AI is named after Amazon’s favorite four-legged “volunteer worker,” Rufus the Corgi. The original Rufus was a de-facto mascot for Amazon and paved the way for Amazon’s dog-friendly work culture. A dog named “Rufus” was featured in an Amazon ad during the 2023 holiday season, so the AI’s name must have been a fairly recent decision.

Source: Amazon

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By John P.

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