Introducing the Alexa Prize: $2.5 Million to Advance Conversational Artificial Intelligence

Registration is now open for universities to build a socialbot on
Alexa and compete to win a $500,000 prize

An additional $1 million prize for a socialbot that achieves the
grand challenge of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans for
20 minutes

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Today, Amazon announced the Alexa Prize, an annual
university competition dedicated to accelerating the field of
conversational artificial intelligence (AI). The goal of the inaugural
competition is to build a “socialbot” on Alexa that will converse with
people about popular topics and news events. The team with the
highest-performing socialbot will win a $500,000 prize. Additionally, a
prize of $1 million will be awarded to the winning team’s university if
their socialbot achieves the grand challenge of conversing coherently
and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes.

Teams of university students can submit applications now and the contest
will conclude at AWS re:invent in November 2017, where the winners will
be announced. Up to ten teams will be sponsored by Amazon and receive a
$100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services, and support
from the Alexa team.

Students will build their socialbots using the Alexa
Skills Kit
(ASK), which tens of thousands of developers are already
using to build new skills on Alexa. Participants will have access to
conversational topic categories and digital content from multiple
sources, including The Washington Post, which has agreed to make
its complete news feed and comments available to the students for
non-commercial use. As part of the research and judging process,
millions of Alexa customers will have the opportunity to converse with
the socialbots on popular topics by saying, “Alexa, let’s chat about (a
topic, for example, baseball playoffs, celebrity gossip, scientific
breakthroughs, etc.).” Following the conversation, Alexa users will give
feedback on the experience to provide valuable input to the students for
improving their socialbots. The feedback from Alexa users will also be
used to help select the best socialbots to advance to the final, live
judging phase.

This challenge will advance several areas of conversational AI including
knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language
generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning, and dialog
planning. Through the innovative work of students, Alexa customers will
have novel, engaging conversations.

“The Alexa Prize challenges students to build socialbots that can
acquire knowledge and opinions from the web, and express them in context
just as a human would in everyday conversations,” said Rohit Prasad,
Vice President and Head Scientist, Amazon Alexa. “A socialbot that can
converse coherently for 20 minutes is unprecedented and at least five
times more advanced than state-of-the-art conversational AI. This
challenge and the immediate feedback students will receive on their best
ideas from millions of engaged Alexa customers will make what we
previously thought impossible, possible.”

Here’s what experts are saying about the Alexa Prize:

  • “Human capacity for language is an instinct, but it’s something that
    must be taught to machines,” said Steven Pinker, Scientist,
    Psychologist, Linguist, and Johnstone Family Professor in the
    Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “Everyday
    conversations that require context and understanding of the world come
    naturally to humans. Machines don’t have those advantages, which makes
    the Alexa Prize a particularly complex challenge for participants to
  • “People are social beings. We naturally want to perceive bots as
    social beings. As we create bots capable of engaging in helpful social
    interactions, we will unlock their potential to improve our learning,
    healing, wellness, and quality of life,” said Maja Mataric, Chaired
    Professor and Founding Director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous
    Systems Center. “The Alexa Prize can help to get us closer to that
    goal by supporting the development of technologies for social
    conversation. The Alexa Prize can be a key enabler of today’s students
    and researchers undertaking this major technical challenge.”
  • “People talk with each other regularly by exchanging stories about
    everyday events,” said Roger Schank, Professor Emeritus from Yale,
    Northwestern, and Stanford. “Something you say reminds me of something
    that I now want to say. Having the context to discuss everyday topics
    comes naturally to humans, but must be learned by conversational AI. I
    am excited about the Alexa Prize and the scientific advances that will
    emerge from the contest.”
  • “Conversing for 20 minutes is difficult for most humans and an
    extraordinarily ambitious challenge for bots that are learning to
    converse like us,” said Dan Jurafsky, Professor and Chair of
    Linguistics and Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.
    “The Alexa Prize will encourage student researchers to come up with
    great ideas for leveraging real-world conversational AI technologies
    like Alexa to create software that can converse as engagingly as
    humans. The immediate feedback from Alexa users will be a huge boost
    in helping students improve their algorithms.”

For submission guidelines and Official Rules for the Alexa Prize please

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