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Would you trust AI-generated reviews? The next Amazon product you buy may have them

Amazon is testing out generative AI to summarize its product reviews for its customers on some products across the store.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
08 December 2020, North Rhine-Westphalia, Mönchengladbach: Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon. A particularly large number of orders are processed during the Christmas business. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa (Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Another day brings another use for generative AI. As companies worldwide are seeking ways they can add artificial intelligence tools to their workflow, Amazon is testing out generative AI in one area that was already controversial: product reviews. 

Amazon's product reviews have long been a way for dubious sellers to scam customers by writing false reviews or changing a product listing after it's gotten a lot of good reviews to make a new product more attractive. The Amazon reviews area resembles a battleground where customers wade through the muck while Amazon fights to maintain their trust against some dishonest sellers trying to get their products past the checkout page. Now, generative AI is entering the fray to streamline it all.

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The e-commerce giant is using generative AI to summarize the reviews of certain product listings. The objective, says Amazon, is to save shoppers from having to wade through all that muck, and instead deliver the gist of other customers' thoughts. Not every product is getting the gen-AI treatment, however, and we've only seen this in mobile listings, but I found a few examples to share how the company's doing this:

Pixel 6a - Generative AI review

Pixel 6a's generative AI review

Screenshot: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

In this example, the Pixel 6a's 4,363 reviews are summarized into one short paragraph using generative AI. Each summary gathers both positive and negative feedback, shows highlighted keywords in bold, and ends with customers' mixed opinions. 

"Customers have praised the phone's camera, memory, and system. The phone is also considered a good value for the price. However, some customers have had negative experiences with the fingerprint sensor, which doesn't work well and has caused connectivity issues", the AI-generated review says.

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Each time an AI-generated summary of a product's reviews appears in a listing, Amazon adds it before all the customer reviews but adds a disclaimer in fine print below it that reads "AI-generated from the text of customer reviews."

According to CNBC, Amazon has confirmed that it is testing the feature and investing significantly in generative AI across all its businesses. 

Apple Watch Generative AI review

The Apple Watch also gets a generative AI review summary

Screenshot: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

There are quite a few product listings with AI-generated review summaries, from toys to tech devices. The Apple Watch's reviews on Amazon are also summarized by AI, as shown in the image above. 

"Customers have praised its excellent quality, great product, nice look, intuitive design, effortless pairing with iPhone, convenience, accuracy in tracking fitness and health, and high-quality features", the summary says of the Apple Watch. "However, some customers have had negative experiences with charging, lack of charger, connectivity issues, and battery life".

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As a shopper that reads a lot of reviews before committing to a big purchase, I find these summaries to be quite useful in giving me the essence of what many buyers have experienced with the product. However, I'll still be wading through reviews even after reading these summaries.

These AI-generated reviews do nothing to combat bogus reviews and dodgy sellers, so it's still worth doing the legwork before checking out.

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