Amazon introduces generative AI shopping assistant Rufus, available for beta testing


Amazon may be late to the party, but it has finally decided to enter the Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) race. The e-commerce giant last week introduced an AI-powered shopping assistant named Rufus, which it claimed would improve the shopping experience of users. Chatbots can answer questions, help with recommendations, and even compare different products. Currently, Rufus is only available in beta for a small subset of Amazon mobile app users in the US. It will be expanded to a larger user base and more regions in the coming months.

Rufus was introduced in an announcement post made by Amazon where it was mentioned that the AI ​​chatbot was “trained on information from Amazon's extensive product catalog, customer reviews, community Q&As, and information from across the web.” Amazon told TechCrunch that the company developed an internal large language model (LLM) to create Rufus that specializes in the shopping experience.

According to a New York Times report, Amazon has a policy of allowing its employees to bring dogs to the workplace, and Rufus was the name of one of the first dogs that wandered into its office in the early days.

Users can ask Rufus questions such as “What to consider when buying headphones?” And get insight into the tone of the conversation. There's the option to ask follow-up questions, ask for recommendations, compare two different headphones, or even ask for details about a certain product like whether it's durable or how good the sound quality is. The chatbot can take input in both text and audio formats, however, it can only generate text currently.

Although Amazon hasn't specified it, it appears that Rufus will only be available on the mobile app for now. Interestingly, there is no dedicated button to activate the Amazon AI chatbot. Instead, when users type a query into the app's search bar, Rufus opens a dialog box from the bottom of the screen to answer the query. To dismiss it, users can simply tap elsewhere on the Amazon app.

Despite being a late entrant into the generative AI space, Amazon said it has been using AI to improve customer experience for more than 25 years. The company said it uses AI and similar technology in its personalized recommendation system, in choosing paths in its fulfillment centers, drone delivery, Alexa's conversational capabilities and in its checkout-free Amazon Go stores.

“We're excited about the potential of generative AI and will continue to test new features to make it even easier to find, research, and buy products in Amazon's stores,” the tech giant said.

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