First Annual Alexa Prize – $2.5 Million to Advance Conversational AI
My family and my friends love the Amazon Echo in our kitchen! In the past week we have asked for jokes, inquired about the time of the impending sunset, played music, and checked on the time for the next Seattle Seahawks game. Many of our guests already know how to make requests of Alexa. The others learn after hearing an example or two, and quickly take charge.
While Alexa is pretty cool as-is, we are highly confident that it can be a lot cooler. We want our customers to be able to hold lengthy, meaningful conversations with their Alexa-powered devices. Imagine the day when Alexa is as fluent as LCARS, the computer in Star Trek!
In order to advance conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) a reality, I am happy to announce the first annual Alexa Prize. This is an annual university competition aimed at advancing the field of conversational AI, with Amazon investing up to 2.5 million dollars in the first year.
Teams of university students (each led by a faculty sponsor) can use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to build a “socialbot” that is able to converse with people about popular topics and news events. Participants will have access to a corpus of digital content from multiple sources including the Washington Post, which has agreed to make their corpus available to the students for non-commercial use.
Millions of Alexa customers will initiate conversations with the socialbots on topics ranging from celebrity gossip, scientific breakthroughs, sports, and technology (to name a few). After each conversation concludes Alexa users will provide feedback that will help the students to improve their socialbot. This feedback will also help Amazon to select the socialbots that will advance to the final phase.
Teams have until October 28, 2016 to apply. Up to 10 teams will be sponsored by Amazon and will receive a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services, and support from the Alexa team; other teams may also be invited to participate.
On November 14, we’ll announce the selected teams and the competition will begin.
In November 2017, the competition will conclude at AWS re:Invent. At that time, the team behind the best-performing socialbot will be awarded a $500,000 prize, with an additional $1,000,000 awarded to their university if their socialbot achieves the grand challenge of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes.