Amazon Launches AI-Powered Shopping Assistant Named Rufus




Artificial intelligence is all the rage, with every company racing to create new applications from the technology. So it’s no surprise that Amazon is employing AI to power a shopping assistant named Rufus.

The company on Thursday unveiled Rufus, which acts as a chatbot able to field questions when shopping on Amazon’s site. Rufus is still in beta and is only available to a small subset of customers for now. The company said Rufus will “progressively roll out to additional U.S. customers in the coming weeks.”

Rufus is just the latest example of the myriad of applications that have stemmed from AI. Amazon itself already has several other AI-powered applications, including using generative AI to come up with summaries of customer reviews on products. It’s preparing an enhanced version of Alexa that will be able to hold a human-like conversation, which is expected to come out later this year.

“Rufus is just another step, but a meaningful one,” CEO Andy Jassey said on an investor call to discuss its fourth-quarter results.

Amazon isn’t the only company to tout AI’s capabilities, with Google and Meta also talking up their own investment in the technology.

The online retail giant said it has trained Rufus on its product catalog, customer reviews, community Q&As, and other information across the web.

Customers can use Rufus to ask general questions about a product they want to learn more about, including “what to consider when buying headphones?” It can also narrow down a search for items based on the occasion, whether it’s a graduation gift or if you want start a garden. The AI is supposed to be smart enough to not only recommend the right products, but other needed secondary items. It’ll also be able to compare products or product categories, and get smarter recommendations.

Rufus will be available to certain beta users once they update their Amazon Shopping app. They can start interacting with the AI by typing in a question in the search field, which triggers a Rufus chat dialog box. The AI works beyond the first question, allowing you to have follow-ups and a more conversational chat with the system.

The company warned that it’s still early days for Rufus, and that it won’t always get the right answer. It’s encouraging users leave feedback so it learns to be more effective.

Image credit: Amazon

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