Alexa Prize faculty advisors provide insights on the competition

Teams' research papers that outline their approaches to development and deployment are now available.

Earlier today, the Alquist team from Czech Technical University learned it had been awarded the $500,000 first-prize purse in the Alexa Prize SocialBot Grand Challenge 4. Teams from Stanford and the University of Buffalo placed second and third, respectively.

Each Alexa Prize challenge team has a faculty advisor. Below are some perspectives on the competition from the advisors to each of the finalists in the recently completed challenge.

Jan Sedivy, Czech Technical University

The CTU team was excited to be part of the Alexa Prize competition. It is very beneficial for the academic team to have a challenging project with many cooperating students. Creating a socialbot is an excellent target requiring innovative and concentrated thinking, but we also had much fun designing catchy and attractive dialogs. Thank you, Amazon, for organizing the competition, and we are looking forward to joining again.

Christopher Manning, Stanford University

We had a great group of students for the Chirpy Cardinal team’s second attempt at the Alexa Prize. I was impressed by the work they took on to almost entirely remake our codebase and to add major new features using neural network generation to more seamlessly blend in information from news articles or Wikipedia, and to improve the experience when discussing food and sports. Producing a human-like conversation is surprisingly subtle and tricky: You need to be able to maintain a natural and consistent conversational arc; you need to correctly pick up on people, places, or products that are mentioned; you need to be able to respond to curveball topics the other speaker may introduce, and you need to contribute novel directions so the conversation doesn’t become boring. There are still many times that Chirpy’s conversations become unnatural when we fail at one or other of these subtasks, but we made noticeable progress. Our conversations in the finals this year averaged more than twice as long as last year's — a sign of success! — and sometimes things all came together, like when one conversant said that their favorite song was “Chocolate” — really “Gimme chocolate!!” — by BabyMetal, and the system recognized that correctly and said it was a great group and then proceeded to ask them what they thought about another BabyMetal song.

Rohini Srihari, University of Buffalo

Through our participation in the Alexa Grand Challenge, Team Proto from the University at Buffalo has gained invaluable hands-on experience and insights into human-bot communication as well as neural models for NLP.  Conversational AI has the potential to make a positive impact on people’s lives and we look forward to furthering our research in this area.

Marilyn Walker, University of California, Santa Cruz

We had a great time this year, it’s been really fun. We started off with a strong system that had many novel components from last year, and we doubled down on some of those. I myself worked on developing some new modules to explore particular research ideas of my own, and that was also amazingly fun and kept me really engaged.  It was great seeing some of our ideas from last year come into full fruition, like our idea of creating a dialogue manager that could flexibly interleave response generators for a particular topic, and thus create an infinite number of novel dialogue interactions for any topic. We made that component stronger and developed it to cover more topics. We put together a dynamic team led by Omkar Patil, a computer science engineering master’s student, with four seasoned PhD students from last year’s team. Then we added a great group of five NLP master’s students, who worked on Athena’s discourse model for their NLP capstone project. 

Alexa Prize Judge Paul Cutsinger
Paul Cutsinger, the head of Alexa developer strategy, was one of the judges for this year's finals competition, which took place in late July. Czech Technical University won the competition with a 3.28 average rating, and an average finals' competition interaction duration of 14 minutes and 14 seconds.

We like the idea of end-to-end dialogue systems, but we think they need more structure and control. So what we’ve created is a hybrid of neural and structured knowledge-informed modules. Many of Athena’s functionalities are an ensemble of classic rule-based components with neural-trained models. For example, our dialogue manager recognizes topics and then calls on response generators, but once a pool of responses has been created, we use a response ranker we’ve repeatedly retrained to select the best response in context. 

The NLP MS team’s new discourse model is a hybrid ensemble of rule-based co-reference engine, with a trained neural engine. We also created a novel user model component that controls the dialogue strategy by remembering the user, their interests and preferences, both within a conversation and across multiple conversations.

Jinho D. Choi, Emory University

This is an exciting time for Conversational AI Research as it is getting more attention than ever. We are grateful that we have been given an opportunity to interact with thousands of people everyday through our chatbot, Emora. This year, we have focused on developing a logic-based dialogue management framework that aims to mimic the inference process that humans make to understand context and derive multiple branches of implications to conduct engaging conversations. We believe that the Alexa Prize has successfully visualized a true potential of Conversational AI in daily applications, challenging a new level of human-computer interaction that our generation has dreamed of for a long time.

Research papers from each of the teams participating in Alexa Prize Grand Challenge 4 are now available on the Alexa Prize website.

A competition for university students dedicated to accelerating the field of conversational AI.

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US, WA, Seattle
Do you want to join an innovative team of scientists who use machine learning and statistical techniques to help Amazon provide the best customer experience by preventing eCommerce fraud? Are you excited by the prospect of analyzing and modeling terabytes of data and creating state-of-the-art algorithms to solve real world problems? Do you like to own end-to-end business problems/metrics and directly impact the profitability of the company? Do you enjoy collaborating in a diverse team environment? If yes, then you may be a great fit to join the Amazon Buyer Risk Prevention (BRP) Machine Learning group. We are looking for a talented scientist who is passionate to build advanced algorithmic systems that help manage safety of millions of transactions every day. Key job responsibilities Use machine learning and statistical techniques to create scalable risk management systems Learning and understanding large amounts of Amazon’s historical business data for specific instances of risk or broader risk trends Design, development and evaluation of highly innovative models for risk management Working closely with software engineering teams to drive real-time model implementations and new feature creations Working closely with operations staff to optimize risk management operations, Establishing scalable, efficient, automated processes for large scale data analyses, model development, model validation and model implementation Tracking general business activity and providing clear, compelling management reporting on a regular basis Research and implement novel machine learning and statistical approaches
US, CA, Pasadena
The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Center for Quantum Computing (CQC) is a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and technicians, on a mission to develop a fault-tolerant quantum computer. We are looking to hire a Research Scientist with fabrication and data analysis experience working on all elements of a superconducting circuit. The position is on-site at our lab, located on the in Pasadena, CA. The ideal candidate will have had prior experience building software tools for data analysis and visualization to enable deep diving into fabrication details, electrical test data. We are looking for candidates with strong engineering principles, resourcefulness and data science experience. Organization and communication skills are essential. Key job responsibilities * Develop and automate data pipeline pertinent to superconducting device fabrication. * Develop analytical tools to uncover new information about established and new processes. * Develop new or contribute to modifying existing data visualization tools. * Utilize machine learning to enable better deeper dives into fabrication and related data. * Interface with various software, design, fabrication and electrical test teams to enable new functionalities. A day in the life The role will be vital to the fabrication team and quantum computing device integration mechanism. The candidate will develop software based analytical tools to enable data driven decisions across projects related to fabrication and supporting infrastructure. Each fabrication run delivers additional data. The candidate will stay close to the details of fabrication providing data analysis and quick feedback to key stakeholders. At the end of fabrication runs custom and standardized reports will be generated by the candidate to provide insights into data generated from the run. This position may require occasional weekend work. About the team AWS values diverse experiences. Even if you do not meet all of the qualifications and skills listed in the job description, we encourage candidates to apply. If your career is just starting, hasn’t followed a traditional path, or includes alternative experiences, don’t let it stop you from applying. Why AWS? Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. We pioneered cloud computing and never stopped innovating — that’s why customers from the most successful startups to Global 500 companies trust our robust suite of products and services to power their businesses. Inclusive Team Culture Here at AWS, it’s in our nature to learn and be curious. Our employee-led affinity groups foster a culture of inclusion that empower us to be proud of our differences. Ongoing events and learning experiences, including our Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) and AmazeCon (gender diversity) conferences, inspire us to never stop embracing our uniqueness. Mentorship & Career Growth We’re continuously raising our performance bar as we strive to become Earth’s Best Employer. That’s why you’ll find endless knowledge-sharing, mentorship and other career-advancing resources here to help you develop into a better-rounded professional. Work/Life Balance We value work-life harmony. Achieving success at work should never come at the expense of sacrifices at home, which is why we strive for flexibility as part of our working culture. When we feel supported in the workplace and at home, there’s nothing we can’t achieve in the cloud. Hybrid Work We value innovation and recognize this sometimes requires uninterrupted time to focus on a build. We also value in-person collaboration and time spent face-to-face. Our team affords employees options to work in the office every day or in a flexible, hybrid work model near one of our U.S. Amazon offices.
US, WA, Bellevue
Conversational AI ModEling and Learning (CAMEL) team is part of Amazon Devices organization where our mission is to build a best-in-class Conversational AI that is intuitive, intelligent, and responsive, by developing superior Large Language Models (LLM) solutions and services which increase the capabilities built into the model and which enable utilizing thousands of APIs and external knowledge sources to provide the best experience for each request across millions of customers and endpoints. We are looking for a passionate, talented, and resourceful Senior Applied Scientist in the field of LLM, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Recommender Systems and/or Information Retrieval, to invent and build scalable solutions for a state-of-the-art context-aware conversational AI. A successful candidate will have strong machine learning background and a desire to push the envelope in one or more of the above areas. The ideal candidate would also have hands-on experiences in building Generative AI solutions with LLMs, enjoy operating in dynamic environments, be self-motivated to take on challenging problems to deliver big customer impact, moving fast to ship solutions and then iterating on user feedback and interactions. Key job responsibilities As a Senior Applied Scientist, you will leverage your technical expertise and experience to demonstrate leadership in tackling large complex problems, setting the direction and collaborating with other talented applied scientists and engineers to research and develop LLM modeling and engineering techniques to reduce friction and enable natural and contextual conversations. You will analyze, understand and improve user experiences by leveraging Amazon’s heterogeneous data sources and large-scale computing resources to accelerate advances in artificial intelligence. You will work on core LLM technologies, including Prompt Engineering, Model Fine-Tuning, Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF), Evaluation, etc. Your work will directly impact our customers in the form of novel products and services .
US, WA, Bellevue
Amazon Devices Sales and Customer Experience is looking for a talented Applied Scientist to help invent, design, and deliver cutting-edge science solutions to make it easier for millions of customers to find their next Amazon Device they will love. In this role you will: - Be a part of a growing and vibrant team of scientists, economists, engineers, analysts, and business partners. - Use Amazon's large-scale computing and data resources to generate deep understandings of our customers, and products. - Build models to generate content and recommendations to customers; run them as large scale A/B tests directly on the retail website. - Design, implement, and deliver novel solutions to hard to solve problems. Key Performance Areas - Implement statistical or machine learning methods to solve specific business problems. - Improve upon existing methodologies by developing new data sources, testing model enhancements, and fine-tuning model parameters. - Directly contribute to development of modern automated recommendation systems - Build customer-facing reporting tools to provide insights and metrics to track model performance and explain variance - Collaborate with researchers, software developers, and business leaders to define product requirements, provide analytical support, and communicate feedback Key job responsibilities We are looking for an innovative, hands-on and customer-obsessed Scientist who can be a strategic partner to the product managers and engineers on the team. Our projects span multiple organizations and require coordination of experimentation, economic and causal analysis, and building predictive machine learning models. A successful candidate will be a problem solver who enjoys diving into data, is excited by difficult modeling challenges, is motivated to build something that will eventually become a production software system and possesses strong communication skills to effectively interface between technical and business teams. In this role, you will be a technical expert with massive impact. You will take the lead on developing advanced solutions that are key to reaching our customers with the right recommendations at the right time. Your work will directly impact the success of Amazon's growing Devices business. You will work across diverse science/engineering/business teams. You will work on critical science problems, building high quality, reliable, accurate, and consistent code sets that are aligned with our business needs. A day in the life You will work with other scientists, engineers, product managers, and marketers to develop new products that benefit our customers and help us reach our business goals. You will own solutions from end to end: conceptualization, prioritization, development and delivery. About the team We are a full stack science team that empowers product, marketing, and other business leaders to better understand customers who use Amazon devices, make decisions on product development or optimization, and measure the effectiveness of their efforts against our customer’s expectation. Our focus area is to build analytical frameworks that help the organization either access data, better understand the decisions customers are making and why, or assess customer satisfaction.
CA, ON, Toronto
Amazon Advertising is one of Amazon's fastest growing and most profitable businesses, responsible for defining and delivering a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our products and solutions are strategically important to enable our Retail and Marketplace businesses to drive long-term growth. We deliver billions of ad impressions and millions of clicks and break fresh ground in product and technical innovations every day! As an Applied Scientist on this team, you will: - Drive end-to-end Machine Learning projects that have a high degree of ambiguity, scale, complexity. - Perform hands-on analysis and modeling of enormous data sets to develop insights that increase traffic monetization and merchandise sales, without compromising the shopper experience. - Build machine learning models, perform proof-of-concept, experiment, optimize, and deploy your models into production; work closely with software engineers to assist in productionizing your ML models. - Run A/B experiments, gather data, and perform statistical analysis. - Establish scalable, efficient, automated processes for large-scale data analysis, machine-learning model development, model validation and serving. - Research new and innovative machine learning approaches. - Recruit Applied Scientists to the team and provide mentorship. Why you will love this opportunity: Amazon is investing heavily in building a world-class advertising business. This team defines and delivers a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our solutions generate billions in revenue and drive long-term growth for Amazon’s Retail and Marketplace businesses. We deliver billions of ad impressions, millions of clicks daily, and break fresh ground to create world-class products. We are a highly motivated, collaborative, and fun-loving team with an entrepreneurial spirit - with a broad mandate to experiment and innovate. Impact and Career Growth: You will invent new experiences and influence customer-facing shopping experiences to help suppliers grow their retail business and the auction dynamics that leverage native advertising; this is your opportunity to work within the fastest-growing businesses across all of Amazon! Define a long-term science vision for our advertising business, driven from our customers' needs, translating that direction into specific plans for research and applied scientists, as well as engineering and product teams. This role combines science leadership, organizational ability, technical strength, product focus, and business understanding. Team video https://youtu.be/zD_6Lzw8raE
US, WA, Seattle
Amazon Advertising is one of Amazon's fastest growing and most profitable businesses, responsible for defining and delivering a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our products and solutions are strategically important to enable our Retail and Marketplace businesses to drive long-term growth. We deliver billions of ad impressions and millions of clicks and break fresh ground in product and technical innovations every day! As the Data Science Manager on this team, you will: - Lead of team of scientists, business intelligence engineers, etc., on solving science problems with a high degree of complexity and ambiguity. - Develop science roadmaps, run annual planning, and foster cross-team collaboration to execute complex projects. - Perform hands-on data analysis, build machine-learning models, run regular A/B tests, and communicate the impact to senior management. - Hire and develop top talent, provide technical and career development guidance to scientists and engineers in the organization. - Analyze historical data to identify trends and support optimal decision making. - Apply statistical and machine learning knowledge to specific business problems and data. - Formalize assumptions about how our systems should work, create statistical definitions of outliers, and develop methods to systematically identify outliers. Work out why such examples are outliers and define if any actions needed. - Given anecdotes about anomalies or generate automatic scripts to define anomalies, deep dive to explain why they happen, and identify fixes. - Build decision-making models and propose effective solutions for the business problems you define. - Conduct written and verbal presentations to share insights to audiences of varying levels of technical sophistication. Why you will love this opportunity: Amazon has invested heavily in building a world-class advertising business. This team defines and delivers a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our solutions generate billions in revenue and drive long-term growth for Amazon’s Retail and Marketplace businesses. We deliver billions of ad impressions, millions of clicks daily, and break fresh ground to create world-class products. We are a highly motivated, collaborative, and fun-loving team with an entrepreneurial spirit - with a broad mandate to experiment and innovate. Impact and Career Growth: You will invent new experiences and influence customer-facing shopping experiences to help suppliers grow their retail business and the auction dynamics that leverage native advertising; this is your opportunity to work within the fastest-growing businesses across all of Amazon! Define a long-term science vision for our advertising business, driven from our customers' needs, translating that direction into specific plans for research and applied scientists, as well as engineering and product teams. This role combines science leadership, organizational ability, technical strength, product focus, and business understanding. Team video ~ https://youtu.be/zD_6Lzw8raE
US, WA, Seattle
Amazon Advertising is one of Amazon's fastest growing and most profitable businesses, responsible for defining and delivering a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our products and solutions are strategically important to enable our Retail and Marketplace businesses to drive long-term growth. We deliver billions of ad impressions and millions of clicks and break fresh ground in product and technical innovations every day! As an Applied Science Manager in Machine Learning, you will: - Directly manage and lead a cross-functional team of Applied Scientists, Data Scientists, Economists, and Business Intelligence Engineers. - Develop and manage a research agenda that balances short term deliverables with measurable business impact as well as long term investments. - Lead marketplace design and development based on economic theory and data analysis. - Provide technical and scientific guidance to team members. - Rapidly design, prototype and test many possible hypotheses in a high-ambiguity environment, making use of both quantitative and business judgment - Advance the team's engineering craftsmanship and drive continued scientific innovation as a thought leader and practitioner. - Develop science and engineering roadmaps, run annual planning, and foster cross-team collaboration to execute complex projects. - Perform hands-on data analysis, build machine-learning models, run regular A/B tests, and communicate the impact to senior management. - Collaborate with business and software teams across Amazon Ads. - Stay up to date with recent scientific publications relevant to the team. - Hire and develop top talent, provide technical and career development guidance to scientists and engineers within and across the organization. Why you will love this opportunity: Amazon is investing heavily in building a world-class advertising business. This team defines and delivers a collection of advertising products that drive discovery and sales. Our solutions generate billions in revenue and drive long-term growth for Amazon’s Retail and Marketplace businesses. We deliver billions of ad impressions, millions of clicks daily, and break fresh ground to create world-class products. We are a highly motivated, collaborative, and fun-loving team with an entrepreneurial spirit - with a broad mandate to experiment and innovate. Impact and Career Growth: You will invent new experiences and influence customer-facing shopping experiences to help suppliers grow their retail business and the auction dynamics that leverage native advertising; this is your opportunity to work within the fastest-growing businesses across all of Amazon! Define a long-term science vision for our advertising business, driven from our customers' needs, translating that direction into specific plans for research and applied scientists, as well as engineering and product teams. This role combines science leadership, organizational ability, technical strength, product focus, and business understanding. Team video ~ https://youtu.be/zD_6Lzw8raE
US, CA, San Francisco
The AWS Center for Quantum Computing is a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and technicians, all working to innovate in quantum computing for the benefit of our customers. We are looking to hire a Research Scientist to design and model novel superconducting quantum devices, including qubits, readout and control schemes, and advanced quantum processors. Candidates with a track record of original scientific contributions and/or software development experience will be preferred. We are looking for candidates with strong engineering principles and resourcefulness. Organization and communication skills are essential. About the team AWS Utility Computing (UC) provides product innovations — from foundational services such as Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), to consistently released new product innovations that continue to set AWS’s services and features apart in the industry. As a member of the UC organization, you’ll support the development and management of Compute, Database, Storage, Internet of Things (Iot), Platform, and Productivity Apps services in AWS, including support for customers who require specialized security solutions for their cloud services. Diverse Experiences AWS values diverse experiences. Even if you do not meet all of the qualifications and skills listed in the job description, we encourage candidates to apply. If your career is just starting, hasn’t followed a traditional path, or includes alternative experiences, don’t let it stop you from applying. Why AWS? Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. We pioneered cloud computing and never stopped innovating — that’s why customers from the most successful startups to Global 500 companies trust our robust suite of products and services to power their businesses. Inclusive Team Culture Here at AWS, it’s in our nature to learn and be curious. Our employee-led affinity groups foster a culture of inclusion that empower us to be proud of our differences. Ongoing events and learning experiences, including our Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) and AmazeCon (gender diversity) conferences, inspire us to never stop embracing our uniqueness. Mentorship & Career Growth We’re continuously raising our performance bar as we strive to become Earth’s Best Employer. That’s why you’ll find endless knowledge-sharing, mentorship and other career-advancing resources here to help you develop into a better-rounded professional. Work/Life Balance We value work-life harmony. Achieving success at work should never come at the expense of sacrifices at home, which is why we strive for flexibility as part of our working culture. When we feel supported in the workplace and at home, there’s nothing we can’t achieve in the cloud. Hybrid Work We value innovation and recognize this sometimes requires uninterrupted time to focus on a build. We also value in-person collaboration and time spent face-to-face. Our team affords employees options to work in the office every day or in a flexible, hybrid work model near one of our U.S. Amazon offices.
US, WA, Seattle
Do you want to join an innovative team of scientists who use machine learning and statistical techniques to help Amazon provide the best customer experience by preventing eCommerce fraud? Are you excited by the prospect of analyzing and modeling terabytes of data and creating state-of-the-art algorithms to solve real world problems? Do you like to own end-to-end business problems/metrics and directly impact the profitability of the company? Do you enjoy collaborating in a diverse team environment? If yes, then you may be a great fit to join the Amazon Buyer Risk Prevention (BRP) Machine Learning group. We are looking for a talented scientist who is passionate to build advanced algorithmic systems that help manage safety of millions of transactions every day. Key job responsibilities Use machine learning and statistical techniques to create scalable risk management systems Learning and understanding large amounts of Amazon’s historical business data for specific instances of risk or broader risk trends Design, development and evaluation of highly innovative models for risk management Working closely with software engineering teams to drive real-time model implementations and new feature creations Working closely with operations staff to optimize risk management operations, Establishing scalable, efficient, automated processes for large scale data analyses, model development, model validation and model implementation Tracking general business activity and providing clear, compelling management reporting on a regular basis Research and implement novel machine learning and statistical approaches
US, CA, San Diego
Do you want to join an innovative team of scientists who use machine learning and statistical techniques to help Amazon provide the best customer experience by preventing eCommerce fraud? Are you excited by the prospect of analyzing and modeling terabytes of data and creating state-of-the-art algorithms to solve real world problems? Do you like to own end-to-end business problems/metrics and directly impact the profitability of the company? Do you enjoy collaborating in a diverse team environment? If yes, then you may be a great fit to join the Amazon Buyer Risk Prevention (BRP) Machine Learning group. We are looking for a talented scientist who is passionate to build advanced algorithmic systems that help manage safety of millions of transactions every day. Key job responsibilities Use machine learning and statistical techniques to create scalable risk management systems Learning and understanding large amounts of Amazon’s historical business data for specific instances of risk or broader risk trends Design, development and evaluation of highly innovative models for risk management Working closely with software engineering teams to drive real-time model implementations and new feature creations Working closely with operations staff to optimize risk management operations, Establishing scalable, efficient, automated processes for large scale data analyses, model development, model validation and model implementation Tracking general business activity and providing clear, compelling management reporting on a regular basis Research and implement novel machine learning and statistical approaches