In a promotional video, Amazon says its Cloud Cam home security camera provides “everything you need to monitor your home, day or night.” In fact, the artificially intelligent device requires help from a squad of invisible employees. Dozens of Amazon workers based in India and Romania review select clips captured by Cloud Cam, according to five people who have worked on the program or have direct knowledge of it. Those video snippets are then used to train the AI algorithms to do a better job distinguishing between a real threat (a home invader) and a false alarm (the cat jumping on the sofa). An Amazon team also transcribes and annotates commands recorded in customers’ homes by the company’s Alexa digital assistant, Bloomberg reported in April.
AI has made it possible to talk to your phone. It’s helping investors predict shifts in market sentiment. But the technology is far from infallible. Cloud Cam sends out alerts when it’s just paper rustling in a breeze. Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa still occasionally mishear commands. One day, engineers may overcome these shortfalls, but for now AI needs human assistance. Lots of it. At one point, on a typical day, some Amazon auditors were each annotating about 150 video recordings, which were typically 20 to 30 seconds long, according to the people, who requested anonymity to talk about an internal program.