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Answer Update lets Alexa get back to you when she's stumped

The feature is rolling out this week -- turn it on, and Alexa will let you know when she's figured out how to answer any questions that were too tough for her.

We've all been there: Your boss asks you a question and you don't have the answer. The common response: "I'll have to get back to you on that."


Answer Update lets Alexa notify you when she's learned the answer to a question that was previously too tough for her.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Now, Alexa's learned the same trick.

First noticed by Voicebot, Amazon calls the feature Answer Update, and tells us that it's rolling out to Alexa users over the next week. I was able to opt in to the feature with an Amazon Echo Spot here at the office by asking Alexa to "turn on Answer Update." 

"OK. If you ask me a question and I don't know the answer, but I find out later, I'll notify you," she replied.

It doesn't appear that the feature is fully up and running yet, though. After throwing a few questions her way, I was able to stump her by asking what time a comic shop in my neighborhood closed tonight.

"Sorry, I'm not sure," she said, with no promise of providing an answer later once her database of local businesses expands.

There's also no sign of the feature in the Alexa app's notifications settings, at least not on my device.  

Once the feature finishes rolling out and you've opted in, those follow-up notifications will arrive on your Echo device, and they'll work just like the shopping notifications that let Alexa notify you when an order is out for delivery. The light on your Echo device will pulse and you'll hear a notification chime -- ask Alexa what the update is, and she'll let you know that's she's learned the answer to a question she previously couldn't answer for you. 

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The move seems like a small step forward in the face of recent studies showing that Alexa's intelligence might be lagging behind that of her chief rival, Google Assistant. Following up and letting users know she's filled in a knowledge gap will help demonstrate Amazon's adage that Alexa is always getting smarter -- but it also might not mean much if those users have already found their answers somewhere else.

Update, 4:00 pm ET: Added more information from Amazon on how those notifications will work.