Amazon Expands Alexa Fund Fellowship to 18 Universities

Yesterday Amazon announced that it has expanded its Alexa Fellowship to include new programs and fourteen new universities, bringing the total number of participating institutions to 18. The Alexa Fellowship is part of the Alexa Fund and now includes two new programs according to an Amazon representative:

  • The Alexa Graduate Fellowship will foster research and education by supporting outstanding PhD and post-doctoral students specializing in topics like machine learning, speech science and conversational AI.
  • The Alexa Innovation Fellowship, meanwhile, is focused on empowering entrepreneurship center faculty to serve as expert resources in voice on their campus.

Each program has a total of ten universities participating, with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Southern California receiving fellowship for both programs. For the full list of participating universities, click here.

Investing in the Future of Voice

Amazon is clearly all in on voice. But even one of the largest companies in the world admits it needs help to create better conversational AI solutions. By providing funding, Amazon is giving universities, professors and students the initiative “to solve many hard conversational AI challenges, ranging from automatic speech recognition to natural language understanding to text-to-speech.”

Universities are using a wide-range of tactics to solve these problems. Carnegie Mellon is using Amazon Alexa as a teaching tool. Alexa and the Alexa Skills Kit are being used in the classroom to introduce students to spoken language interaction and to build systems that focus on interaction-level problems. Others are focused on making it easier for the wider population to use artificial intelligence. At MIT, Jessica Van Brummelen is developing conversational AI tools which will allow anyone to create their own intelligent systems. Whether it’s working directly with Alexa in the classroom or solving a larger conversational computing problem, the goal is the same: to improve the voice-first experience.

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