Amazon Selects Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge 2 Contestants
Amazon has chosen the 10 teams that will compete in the second Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge. The international collection of university teams will endeavor to prove that their respective multi-modal voice apps are the best at guiding a user through conversation to complete complex tasks with multiple steps.
The TaskBot Challenge looks to enhance Amazon Alexa’s capacity to engage in longer conversations that involve multiple interactions to accomplish a goal, like building furniture or cooking a meal. The developers are trying to go beyond the standard one-to-one ratio of human requests and AI actions. Even an Alexa routine with multiple parts is still really one command and one collection of errands for the voice assistant. ratio. Amazon wants TaskBots to guide users all the way through a project. That means possible upgrades to Alexa’s voice commerce and shopping abilities to enable users to list and purchase all the components and ingredients they need. For the first TaskBot Challenge, participants were asked for entries centered around either home improvement or cooking, but opened the current contest to “more hobbies and at-home activities.” The teams also need to augment their app with visuals, such as diagrams or photographs, for a multi-modal experience.
“Prize competitions provide an agile science experimentation framework for researchers and students encouraging them to explore transformational ideas at the boundaries of what is achievable,” Alexa Prize head and Alexa AI senior principal scientist Reza Ghanadan said. “We have developed the CoBot platform and tools to lower the barriers to AI innovation for both the academic research community and students interested in conversational AI assistants. These tools allow students to quickly deploy their solutions at scale in the real world with Alexa, then observe, evaluate, and enhance their research results using feedback from Alexa customers.”The ten university teams and their projects, divided by whether they are a new or returning contestant, are:
|TWIZ||NOVA School of Science and Technology|
|EvoquerBOT||Penn State University|
|Taco 2.0||The Ohio State University|
|GRILL||University of Glasgow|
|Maruna||University of Massachusetts Amherst|
|Sage||University of California, Santa Cruz|
|ISABEL||University of Pittsburgh|
Each team receives a $250,000 research grant and various Amazon tech services. Alexa customers can test out the TaskBots starting in May by saying, “Alexa, let’s work together.” The winners will be announced in September, with $500,000 awarded to the top team. The second and third-place teams will get $100,000 and $50,000, respectively. The University of Glasgow and its GRILLBot won the first TaskBot Challenge in June, with NOVA School’s Twiz as runner-up and Ohio State University’s TacoBot in third.
“I am delighted to see that new teams are joining the second year of the competition together with returning teams, who, by competing again, are signaling to us that they found value in the TaskBot challenge, Amazon Shopping research and science vice president Yoelle Maarek said. “We expect these talented graduate students to continue surprising us, as well as Amazon customers, this year. Connecting academia, Amazonians, and actual customers experimenting with TaskBots, is a winning combination to keep pushing the boundaries of science in conversational AI for Alexa to delight and ease the lives of millions of customers.”