In the fall of 2016, Amazon announced introduced the Alexa Prize, a $3.5 million university competition to create socialbots to advance conversational AI. Last year the $500,000 first prize and $1 million research grant went to the University of Washington. Their socialbot Sounding Board was able to maintain an average conversation duration of 10:22. Faculty advisor, Mari Ostendorf commented:
Not only did the students build Sounding Board from scratch, they learned from tapping into actual Alexa users across the U.S., and brought together the U of W community to share ideas and secure feedback in order to promote success.
New Participants for 2018
Given the success of the first Alexa Prize, Amazon announced a new round for 2018. The final universities are from all over the globe, from the Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to UC Santa Cruz in California. The primary goal of the competition is to address one of the main challenges with AI bots – making them sound less like a robot. By giving students and universities incentives with a large prize and resources, Amazon is both help to advance conversational AI technology while also introducing young talent to a relatively young field. According to Amazon, “customers have logged more than 100,000 hours of conversation with the 2017 Alexa Prize socialbots.”
The new Alexa Prize participants will debut their chatbots this spring. To view the papers from last year’s class, click here.