Amazon Selects $100,000 Alexa Conversations Skills Challenge Finalists
Amazon has chosen the finalists for the $100,000 Alexa Skills Challenge: Alexa Conversations contest announced in July. The competition, run in a partnership with Devpost, kicked off as part of the launch of the Conversations feature for the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which aims to simplify building voice apps while making users feel more comfortable interacting with the voice assistant.
After a year-long beta, Alexa Conversations arrived with significant fanfare and no small amount of confusion. The feature has been described as cross-skill goal completion and a few other terms, leading to reports mischaracterizing its final form. Alexa Conversations essentially gives developers a break from anticipating everything a user might say. Instead, they enter the specific goals and any necessary details needed to complete an interaction into the system. Once the information is in, Alexa Conversations designs the solution, modeling potential interactions, and how to get the user to the goal. That means the developer has far less code to write as Alexa can handle context and adapt to people’s whims. In the pizza ordering voice app Amazon used as an example at the launch, for instance, users could pick the size, toppings, and type of crust in any order, changing their minds or even asking off-script questions without throwing the voice assistant for a loop, just as with a human.
Amazon’s enthusiasm for Alexa Conversations is evident in the scale of the contest. The 10 finalists have each won $5,000 already and now have a shot at a $20,000 grand prize. A panel of judges will examine their skills until October 17 and announced a winner on October 30. Along with the grand prize, eight $2,000 prizes will be given to entrants, not necessarily finalists, in specific app categories like travel, education, and games, as well as the best visual and best audio skills. While Alexa Conversations can be integrated into existing skills, the finalists represent new voice apps.
“We reviewed hundreds of submissions from thousands of contestants and we’re excited to share the 10 finalists,” Alexa’s Drew Meyer wrote in a blog post announcing the finalists. “The review process wasn’t easy; we were amazed by the range of creative implementations that handled complex, multi-turn dialogs and offered more natural-feeling customer experiences.”
The finalists are:
- A Review Session on the Great Gatsby: Multiple choice and free-response questions to study the book
- Art Museum: Audio art museum tour
- date.a.voice: Virtual dates with the voice assistant
- Job Search: Voice-based job hunt with results collated and sent to mobile devices
- Learning Out Loud: Study plan design
- Meeple Buddy: Helps decide what tabletop game to play in the moment
- Refugee Restrooms: Skill for finding restrooms with specific accommodations for accessibility and other needs
- Smartnest Plus: Guide for understanding water and energy consumption reports
- The Great Expedition: Educational game of exploration
- The Conspiracy Theory Escape Room: Audio version of an adventure game