Introducing ‘Rufus’: Amazon’s Latest AI Shopping Assistant

Hari Subagio

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Amazon has officially unveiled its new AI-powered shopping assistant named Rufus. This AI assistant has been trained extensively on the e-commerce giant’s vast product catalog and information gathered from across the web.

As reported by TechCrunch on Friday, the company announced that this innovative tool would be launched in beta for select US customers starting Thursday (February 1, 2024), with plans to expand its availability to more users in the coming weeks. Customers will be able to engage in chat conversations with Rufus within the Amazon mobile app, seeking assistance in discovering products, comparing items, and receiving recommendations on what to buy.

The introduction of this AI-powered chatbot follows Amazon.com’s addition of various AI-based features aimed at enhancing the consumer shopping experience. These features range from tools helping customers find the perfect clothing fit to improving product reviews with concise summaries and customer sentiment, among other features catering to advertisers and sellers.

Rufus represents a generative AI experience trained on product catalogs, customer reviews, community Q&A, and information from across the web. It is designed to respond to customer queries related to their shopping needs.

Amazon revealed to TechCrunch that they built a new internal Language Model (LLM) specifically dedicated to shopping, empowering this experience. The model was then trained on both internal data and publicly available data from the entire web.

However, it was not specified whether this data includes other publicly available retail websites. Customers can ask Rufus questions like “What should be considered when buying running shoes?” or “What’s the difference between trail and road running shoes?”

Rufus can also assist with product comparisons or provide recommendations if customers inquire about topics such as “What’s a good Valentine’s Day gift?” or “What’s the best dinosaur toy for a five-year-old?”

In essence, users can chat with this AI assistant similarly to other consumer-related AI chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Google’s Bard. Rufus will initially be available in beta for specific customers in the US within the Amazon mobile app, accessible by tapping a new button on the bottom navigation bar.

Customers can type or voice their questions into the AI chatbox that appears at the bottom of the screen. Once finished, users can return to the Amazon app by swiping down to close the chatbox, bringing it back to the bottom of the screen.

Amazon stated that this beta version will help enhance its generative AI products and initiatives over time. “This is still early for generative AI, and the technology isn’t always perfect,” the company mentioned in a blog post.

“We’ll continue to improve the AI model and refine responses so that Rufus becomes more helpful over time. Customers are encouraged to provide feedback by rating their responses with a thumbs up or down, and they also have the option to give feedback in free-form,” the company added.

Amazon clarified that the chatbot would not display ads at launch, but additional elements would be added to Rufus’s experience over time if they add value for customers.