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Amazon’s new Rufus chatbot isn’t bad — but it isn’t great, either

3 mins

Daniil Bazylenko

Published by: Daniil Bazylenko

18 March 2024, 05:06PM

In Brief

Amazon has introduced Rufus, an AI-powered chatbot within its Shopping app for Android and iOS.

Rufus aims to enhance user assistance in product research and recommendations.

The chatbot offers a simple interface accessible through swiping or tapping, but lacks advanced features.

Rufus focuses on providing insights and advice for users inquiring about specific products or seeking general buying advice.

While Rufus demonstrates a cautious approach in handling specific queries, it extends beyond shopping assistance to answer a wide range of questions, promising future improvements from Amazon.

Amazon’s new Rufus chatbot isn’t bad — but it isn’t great, either

Amazon's recent introduction of Rufus, an AI-powered chatbot within the Amazon Shopping app for both Android and iOS, marks a step towards enhancing user assistance in product research and recommendations. The rollout to early testers, including TechCrunch, commenced on February 1, and the chatbot aims to provide insights and advice to users seeking information about various products.

Rufus offers a simple chat interface accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen while browsing the Amazon catalog or tapping on the search bar. Users can transcribe questions for Rufus or type them in directly. However, the chat interface is currently quite basic, lacking features such as conversation export or sharing. The only available settings allow users to view or clear the chat history.

The primary focus of Rufus, at its launch, revolves around product research. Users can inquire about specific items, even without having a particular make or model in mind. For example, one can ask Rufus for attributes and features to consider when purchasing products like headphones or seek recommendations for items needed for a particular project, such as detailing a car at home.

While Rufus attempts to assist users with general buying advice, the chatbot's responses can sometimes lack nuance. For instance, when asked about the best laptops for teenagers or Valentine's Day gifts for gay couples, Rufus may provide relevant information, but its suggestions may not always align accurately with user expectations.

Curious about how Rufus handles more specific queries, the author tested the chatbot with questions about violent video games for kids, worst gifts for parents, and knockoff fashion items. Rufus demonstrated a cautious approach, avoiding controversial territory and steering towards more acceptable and helpful recommendations.

Additionally, Rufus was questioned on its preferences between Amazon and its competitors, such as Walmart or Apple. The responses provided by the chatbot seemed reasonably impartial, with no clear bias towards Amazon products, despite the potential for antitrust concerns.

However, Rufus, as a chatbot, extends beyond just shopping assistance. Users can ask it a wide range of questions, and while it won't provide toxic or problematic responses, there are limitations to its knowledge base and accuracy, particularly when dealing with trivia or current events.

In its current state, Rufus may not offer a comprehensive shopping assistant experience, lacking certain features users might expect on the Amazon platform. Despite being in its early days and available to select U.S. customers in beta, Amazon promises improvements to Rufus, acknowledging the competitive landscape in the evolving field of AI-driven virtual assistants. As updates are anticipated, users can hope for a more refined and feature-rich Rufus in the future, potentially addressing current limitations and clarifying aspects like data usage and safety measures.

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