Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4 finalists announced
Five teams to compete for $500,000 first prize; winners will be announced in August 2021.
Five university teams were selected recently to compete in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4 (SGC4) finals. This year’s winners will be determined during the finals competition, which will be held July 27 – 29, 2021. Winners will be announced in August.
The five finalists are:
- Czech Technical University (Prague);
- Emory University;
- Stanford University;
- The University at Buffalo; and
- The University of California, Santa Cruz.
The three socialbots with the highest average customer ratings during the semifinals automatically advanced to the finals: Emory, Stanford, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Two wildcard teams, Czech Technical University, and The University at Buffalo, also advanced based on evaluation benchmarks that included depth and breadth of topics covered, appropriateness and accuracy of responses, and scientific merit determined from the teams’ technical papers.
Finalists are excited and inspired
“In this year’s Alexa Prize Grand Challenge, we set several ambitious research goals,” said Jakub Konrád, a PhD student at CTU, and the team’s leader. “It is fantastic to see that our work paid off and led us to the competition finals once again. We can’t wait for the final round; we are focused on defending our placements from previous years and hopefully will do even better this time around.”
“I’m extremely proud to have such a talented team of students,” said Jinho Choi, faculty advisor for the Emory University team, and assistant professor in Emory’s computer science department. “It’s a group of strongly motivated people with the right combination of diverse skills coming together at the right time. They’re working on changing the paradigm for conversational artificial intelligence. The experience that users have with our chatbot, Emora, will be largely different from chatbots based on state-machine approaches.”
Transformative technology 'in ways we can barely comprehend'
One of the judge's in last year's finals competition, and some of the finalists talked about their experiences, the role of COVID-19, and the future of socialbots. Learn more.
"We are incredibly excited to be in the SGC4 finals and have learned so much on our journey so far! Whether it's late-night debugging, in-depth user interviews, or just plain old writing dialogue, our entire team has really enjoyed our experience chatting to hundreds of thousands of Alexa customers,” said Ethan Chi, the team leader for Stanford. “We’re looking forward to seeing all the teams in the finals
“The University at Buffalo, which has a deep and impactful history of innovation in artificial intelligence, is thrilled to be a finalist in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge,” said Rohini Srihari, professor and associate chair of the university’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and the team’s faculty advisor. “We’re looking forward to the finals, and to advancing the state of the art in conversational AI.”
“As one of the few teams to have competed since the Alexa Prize’s inaugural year, it’s exciting to contribute to stretching the boundaries of conversational AI,” said Kevin Bowden, a PhD student in computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We are really happy that, as finalists, we are moving the needle forward. We hope that this year our team will be able to place during the finals.”
Alexa Prize is a million-dollar university challenge focused on creating conversational AI socialbots that can speak coherently and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes on a range of current events and topics, such as entertainment, sports, politics, technology and fashion.
The teams’ ultimate goal is to meet 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 socialbots’ interactions in the final round are coherent and engaging for 20 minutes. The first team to meet that challenge will win a $1 million research grant for its university.
Three of this year’s five finalists were winners in last year’s challenge. The “Emora” team from Emory earned the $500,000 first prize, and teams from Stanford and Czech Technical University earned second- and third-place prizes, respectively.
A team from the University of Washington won the first challenge, and in 2018 a team from the University of California, Davis won the competition.
Alexa customers can engage with one of the finalists’ socialbots simply by saying, “Alexa, let’s chat”.