Amazon Offering $500,000 in Competition for Building a Conversational AI

Alexa is an AI that talks to you through the Amazon Echo. The AI can search for information, shop for you or answer your questions. According to Amazon, the maker of Alexa and the Echo device, the AI is capable of,

…the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm or timer and more. Alexa is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. The more customers use Alexa, the more she adapts to speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences

The Alexa Prize

What’s so great about it? Well if you happen to be a student in the relevant field you can win a $500,000 Alexa prize. You can win an additional $1 million if your team can manage to develop a socialbot that can talk with a regular person for 20 minutes without problems.

The Alexa prize is an annual competition between teams from different universities across the world. The purpose of this competition is to help make conversational AI better. Conversational AI is a type of AI that can talk to you like a regular human being would. This year marks the beginning of this competition, which will be held annually.

A socialbot is an addition to the Alexa AI that will allow it to talk to us in an engaging and normal way, unlike virtual assistants like Cortana or Siri.

The participating teams will have to build a socialbot and submit it to Amazon for testing before March 31st 2017. The customers will then use it and provide the teams with feedback

How to participate

Only university students can participate and you can only participate as a team. There is no limit on the number of people on your team. You will need a team leader and a faculty adviser on your team to participate. The faculty adviser will serve as a guide and a sounding board for ideas.

Up to ten teams will be selected to receive a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services to support their development efforts, and support from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) team. The other teams will still be able to participate in the competition.

You can apply for the competition by having your team leader sign up for a YouNoodle account and filling out the forms. The team members will receive invitations for registration once the team leader begins the application process. You can sign up for the account and access the application forms here.

Selection criteria

Your team will be selected to participate based on the following criteria:

  • the potential scientific contribution to the field
  • the technical merit of the approach
  • the novelty of the idea
  • an assessment of the team’s ability to execute against their plan.

You can head over to the FAQ page for more details. You can read the contest rules here.

Last date for form submissions is October 28th.

A techie, Overwatch and Street Fighter enthusiast, and Editor at ProPakistani.

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