Amazon Launches $2.5 Million Alexa Prize for College Students

Posted by at 9:54 am on September 30, 2016


If you are college student with an interest in artificial intelligence, you could win some serious money from Amazon.

The Web giant on Thursday announced the Alexa Prize, a new contest for university students aimed at helping advance conversational AI. Teams of students will be tasked with building a “socialbot” on Amazon’s Alexa platform that can converse with people about popular topics and news events.

The team with the highest performing socialbot will win a $500,000 prize. Plus, if the winning team’s socialbot can coherently engage with humans for 20 minutes, their school will be awarded $1 million.

Your team must submit an application before Oct. 28.

The contest will conclude at AWS re:invent in November 2017, where the winners will be announced. Amazon will sponsor up to 10 teams, each of which will receive a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services, and support from the Alexa team.

Socialbots should be able to “acquire knowledge and opinions from the web, and express them in context just as a human would in everyday conversations,” Amazon Alexa Head Scientist and Vice President Rohit Prasad said in a statement. “A socialbot that can converse coherently for 20 minutes is unprecedented and at least five times more advanced than state-of-the-art conversational AI. This challenge and the immediate feedback students will receive on their best ideas from millions of engaged Alexa customers will make what we previously thought impossible, possible.”

Students can get started building their socialbots using the Alexa Skills Kit. As part of the judging process, Alexa customers will be able to converse with the socialbots by saying “Alexa, let’s chat about,” followed by the topic of their choice (celebrity gossip, baseball playoffs, etc.). After the conversation, users will offer feedback on the experience, which will be used to help select the best socialbots before the final, live judging.

Amazon said the challenge will “advance several areas of conversational AI including knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning, and dialog planning.”

For official contest rules and submission guidelines, head here.

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