Amazon Introduces Generative AI Shopping Assistant Rufus, Available for Beta Testing

Amazon might have been late to the party, but it has finally decided to enter the generative artificial intelligence (AI) race. The e-commerce giant introduced an AI-powered shopping assistant called Rufus last week, claiming that it would improve the shopping experience of users. The chatbot can answer queries, help with recommendations, and even compare different products. At present, Rufus is only available in beta to 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 mentioned that the AI chatbot was “trained on Amazon’s extensive product catalogue, customer reviews, community Q&As, and information from across the web.” Amazon told TechCrunch that the company developed an internal large language model (LLM) which specialises in shopping experience to create Rufus.

According to a report by the New York Times, Amazon has a policy to allow its employees to bring dogs to the workplace, and Rufus was the name of one of the first dogs that roamed its office during the early days.

Users can ask Rufus questions such as “What to consider when buying headphones?” and receive information in a conversational tone. There is an option to ask follow-up questions, ask for recommendations, compare two different headphones, or even ask for details about a certain product regarding whether it is durable or how good is the sound quality. The chatbot can take input in both text and audio format, however, it can only generate text for now.

While Amazon did not specify 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 queries in the search bar of the app, Rufus opens a dialogue box from the bottom of the screen to answer the query. To dismiss it, users can simply tap elsewhere on the Amazon app.

Despite its late entry on the generative AI space, Amazon said that it has been using AI for more than 25 years to improve customer experience. The company said it uses AI and similar technology in its personalised recommendation system, in picking paths in its fulfilment centres, drone deliveries, conversational capabilities of Alexa, and in its checkout-free Amazon Go stores.

“We are excited about the potential of generative AI and will continue testing new features to make it even easier to find and discover, research, and buy products in Amazon’s store,” the tech giant added.

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