Amazon Picks Alexa Prize Socialbot Finalists
Amazon has unveiled the five finalists for the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge. The finalists narrowed down from an initial 15 colleges worldwide, will now move into the last round of the contest for cash grants and a place in Alexa’s future.
Each team has built a socialbot for Alexa. The socialbots can carry out complex conversations on different subjects than the standard question and answers with the voice assistant. The ultimate goal is to improve how well Alexa can handle casual conversation and behave more like a human when talking with a user. Amazon sets the bar at a minimum of 20 minutes conversation with at least two-thirds of that conversation at a speed and coherence level comparable to two humans.
The finals will be held this year from July 14-17, with the winning team will earn a $1 million research grant for their university. The winning team wins another $500,000, with smaller amounts for second and third place. This is the third time Amazon has run the competition. The University of Washington’s Sounding Board program won the first year, while last year, the University of California, Davis won the competition with their socialbot, Gunrock.
In the semifinals, ten socialbots carried out more than 19,000 hours of chat in more than 793,000 conversations The three socialbots that scored the highest in customer ratings in the semifinals were added to the final round automatically. Those social bots included the Czech Technical University in Prague’s Alquist, Emory University’s Emora, and the University of California, Davis’ Gunrock, making another appearance in the contest. Amazon also picked two wildcard teams for the final round by judging how much their bot could discuss, how accurate it was when conversing, and the scientific value of the project. Stanford University’s Chirpy Cardinal and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Athena, were this year’s wildcard picks.
Amazon hosts several contests to draw in new ideas and talent for Alexa, including the Alexa Skills Challenge for Kids and the Alexa Life Hack Challenge, and the Lego Mindstorms Voice Challenge: Powered by Alexa. They all fit into Amazon’s ambitions to expand and enhance the community of Alexa developers. The skills built by those developers, in turn, serve as a major selling point to convince people to use Alexa for their homes, cars, and mobile devices. To test out the competing socialbots or try out the previous winners, you can use the command, “Alexa, let’s chat.”