No Ultimate Winner Yet For Alexa Prize
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 26 September 2021

Top honors in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4 went to Team Alquist from the Czech Technical University while Stanford University's Chirpy Cardinal and PROTO from the University of Buffalo won the second and third prizes respectively.

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Back in 2016 Amazon inaugurated the Alexa Prize competition that requires teams of university students to build a “socialbot” on Alexa that can converse with people about popular topics and news events with the first winners announced in 2017

Nine teams had been selected to take part in the latest edition of the competition. Five of them had participated before and four were new entrants. One of these, team PROTO from the University of Buffalo, made it through to the finals and took 3rd prize of $50,000. In second place came Team Chirpy Cardinal from Stanford, winning the $100,000 prize for the second year in a row. The $500,000 first prize was awarded to Team Alquist from CTU (Czech Technical University) which has been among the finalists in all of the three previous competitions.

There is also a prize of $1 million on the table. It will be awarded to the winning team’s university once their socialbot meets the standard set as the "Grand Challenge": earn a composite score of 4.0 or higher (out of 5) from the judges, and have the judges find that at least two-thirds of their conversations with the socialbot in the final round of judging remain coherent and engaging for 20 minutes.

While progress is made year on year there is still some way to go and although this year's bots began the competition with better performance than last year's, quality began to decline during the Semifinal stage of the competition, a phenomenon Amazon attributes to teams, "experimenting with research ideas that are inherently unpredictable". The winning socialbot Alquist had an average rating of 3.28 and an average finals’ competition interaction duration of 14 minutes and 14 seconds.

You can see the finalists in action in this video:

In the video preamble Prem Natarajan, Alexa AI Vice President of Natural Understanding, summarizes the ongoing aim of the contest as being able to make transformative advances in conversational AI and Rohit Prasad, Head Scientist of Alexa AI, explains that the advantage afforded by the program is the research feedback for access to millions of users. Amazon's investment in student research seems to be paying off in each participating team is required to publish a paper outlining what they achieved and over the four contests to date this has led to important contributions to the field of conversational AI.

This year Amazon launched an additional Alexa Prize competition, the Taskbot Challenge. In this challenge, university teams must build a multimodal (voice and vision) agent that helps users complete do-it-yourself and cooking tasks with multiple steps and decisions. Ten university teams have been selected to participate, each receiving a research grant of $250,000. The competition phase is just beginning and soon Alexa customers will be able to evaluate taskbots and provide feedback. The finals will take place in May 2022 when five finalists will compete head-to-head in front of judges.

 

More Information

Czech Technical University team wins Alexa Prize SocialBot Grand Challenge 4

Nine university teams selected to compete in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4

Alexa Prize - Teskbot Challenge

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 September 2021 )