Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge Finals

Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge

Three top performers emerge in inaugural Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge—the first conversational AI challenge to incorporate multimodal (voice and vision) customer experiences.

Three university teams have emerged as top performers in the inaugural Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge.

Launched in March 2021, the TaskBot Challenge involved ten university teams who competed to develop bots that could assist customers in completing cooking or do-it-yourself home improvement tasks that required multiple steps and decisions.

The teams’ goal: build taskbots that assist customers in multi-step tasks, such as baking a birthday cake or fixing a scratch on a car — and adapt those instructions based on the resources and tools available to the customer. If, for example, a customer ran out of an ingredient halfway through a recipe or didn’t have a specific tool for a DIY project, the taskbot had to adjust the plan and suggest possible solutions.

Customers interacted with the taskbots by saying, “Alexa, let’s work together”. That prompt initiated an interaction with one of ten taskbots. After the interaction ended, customers were asked to rate — on a scale from 1 to 5 — how helpful that taskbot was with the task.

“This challenge was motivated by our north star that Alexa will keep inventing next-generation conversational AI experiences that address our customers’ changing needs,” said Yoelle Maarek, vice president of research and science, Alexa Shopping. “Congratulations to our top-performing teams, and to all of the teams who participated in this inaugural challenge. We were delighted with the high level of engagement from the academic community, and by the advances the teams made against the research directions established for the challenge.”

The TaskBot Challenge is the first conversational AI challenge to incorporate multimodal customer experiences; in addition to receiving verbal instructions, customers were also presented with images or diagrams to guide them through the task.

Success required the teams to address many difficult AI challenges, from knowledge representation and inference, and commonsense and causal reasoning, to language understanding and generation, requiring fusion of multiple AI techniques.

The GRILL team from the University of Glasgow consists of, left to right, Iain Mackie, Federico Rossetto (pictured on tablet), Paul Owoicho (standing), Carlos Gemmell, Jeff Dalton (standing), and Sophie Fischer.
The GRILL team from the University of Glasgow consists of, left to right, Iain Mackie, Federico Rossetto (pictured on tablet), Paul Owoicho (standing), Carlos Gemmell, Jeff Dalton (standing), and Sophie Fischer.

Each of the ten teams participating in the challenge received $250,000 research grants, Alexa-enabled devices, free Amazon Web Services cloud computing services to support their research and development efforts, access to the TaskBot Toolkit, other data resources, and Alexa team support.

Five teams were selected for the finals earlier this year.

Nova School of Science and Technology - Team Twiz team photos
A team from the NOVA School of Science and Technology (FCT NOVA)  in Portugal earned second place with their bot, Twiz.

GRILLBot, a “multi-modal task-oriented digital assistant to guide users through complex real-world tasks” developed by a team of graduate students at the University of Glasgow, emerged as the winner of the challenge.

A team from the NOVA School of Science and Technology (FCT NOVA)  in Portugal earned second place with their bot, Twiz, and a team from Ohio State University (OSU) earned third-place honors with its TacoBot. The finalists also included QuakerBot from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and GauchoBot from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

The top performers earned prize money to be divided among the team members: $500,000 for first place, $100,000 for second, and $50,000 for third.

“The experience of taking the ambitious Alexa Prize TaskBot goals from ideas and research to prototype and launching on a tight timeline was thrilling and humbling,” said Federico Rossetto, a PhD student and one of the GRILL team members.

The Ohio State Universiy TacoBot team consists of, left to right, top row: Zhen Wang and Samuel Stevens;  second row: Tianshu Zhang, Shijie Chen, and Yu Su; third row: Lingbo Mo, Xiang Yue, Xiang Deng; and bottom row: Ashley Lewis, Ziru Chen, and Huan Sun.
The Ohio State Universiy TacoBot team consists of, left to right, top row: Zhen Wang and Samuel Stevens; second row: Tianshu Zhang, Shijie Chen, and Yu Su; third row: Lingbo Mo, Xiang Yue, Xiang Deng; and bottom row: Ashley Lewis, Ziru Chen, and Huan Sun.

Another GRILLBot team member said the team realized it was essential to provide a wide variety of images and videos that help illustrate the techniques involved in each task.

“We learned that users learn and enjoy a task more when there are rich image and video elements,” said Iain Mackie, a PhD student. To do that, the students relied on image and video augmentations, applying multimedia elements that could be reusable across different tasks.

“Ultimately, the goal of taskbots is one shared by the research vision from our research lab: to enable people to understand the world and make people's lives better,” said Carlos Gemmell, GRILLBot’s project leader.

TWIZ, the taskbot developed by the FCT NOVA team, introduced an element of curiosity to the challenge. The bot would mention curious facts related to the tasks being performed, which increased customer engagement.

One of the lessons learned by the team was the limits of some algorithms when faced with human unpredictability.

“Transformer-based algorithms work extremely well in controlled settings, but in conversational settings it is natural for users to ramble until they find what they really want,” noted Rafael Ferreira, a PhD student and FCT NOVA‘s team leader. “This creates many new exploratory behaviors which can lead to conversations that must be fun and engaging.”

OSU TacoBot team members said they learned about the importance of user experience in developing real-life dialogue systems.

“User engagement is a key aspect to consider in developing taskbots. Instead of only focusing on the task, users seem to have an interest in having a chit-chat with the bot from time to time. How to naturally transition between chit-chat and task-oriented turns requires prolonged efforts,” said Huan Sun, an associate computer science and engineering professor at OSU, who served as the team’s faculty advisor.

All 10 teams participating in the competition have published research papers detailing their work.

“The TaskBot Challenge, launched last year, is among three Alexa Prize challenges,” explained Reza Ghanadan, a senior principal research scientist who oversees Amazon’s Alexa Prize competitions. “Our original Alexa Prize competition, SocialBot Grand Challenge, just completed its fourth challenge and we plan to announce the next competition, SGC5, in late June 2022, and earlier this year we introduced the SimBot Challenge, which will soon enter its live interactions phase with ten university teams competing. We are excited about how each of these challenges is contributing to the advancement of human-computer interactions through conversations.”

The inaugural TaskBot Challenge was the first of three that will occur over a three-year period. The second challenge will launch in September 2022. Alexa customers can still interact with the winning taskbots by saying, “Alexa, let’s work together”.

Latest news

See more
Get the latest updates, stories, and more about the Alexa Prize.
See more
CA, BC, Vancouver
Machine learning (ML) has been strategic to Amazon from the early years. We are pioneers in areas such as recommendation engines, product search, eCommerce fraud detection, and large-scale optimization of fulfillment center operations. The Amazon ML Solutions Lab team helps AWS customers accelerate the use of machine learning to solve business and operational challenges and promote innovation in their organization. We are looking for a passionate, talented, and inventive Applied Scientist with a strong machine learning background to help develop solutions by pushing the envelope in Time Series, Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Machine Learning (ML) and Computer Vision (CV).Inclusive Team Culture Here at AWS, we embrace our differences. We are committed to furthering our culture of inclusion. We have ten employee-led affinity groups, reaching 40,000 employees in over 190 chapters globally. We have innovative benefit offerings, and host annual and ongoing learning experiences, including our Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) and AmazeCon (gender diversity) conferences. Work/Life Balance Our team puts a high value on work-life balance. It isn’t about how many hours you spend at home or at work; it’s about the flow you establish that brings energy to both parts of your life. We believe striking the right balance between your personal and professional life is critical to life-long happiness and fulfillment. We offer flexibility in working hours and encourage you to find your own balance between your work and personal lives. Mentorship & Career Growth Our team is dedicated to supporting new members. We have a broad mix of experience levels and tenures, and we’re building an environment that celebrates knowledge sharing and mentorship. Our senior members enjoy one-on-one mentoring and thorough, but kind, code reviews. We care about your career growth and strive to assign projects based on what will help each team member develop into a better-rounded engineer and enable them to take on more complex tasks in the future. As a ML Solutions Lab Applied Scientist, you are proficient in designing and developing advanced ML models to solve diverse challenges and opportunities. You will be working with terabytes of text, images, and other types of data and develop novel models to solve real-world problems. You'll design and run experiments, research new algorithms, and find new ways of optimizing risk, profitability, and customer experience. You will apply classical ML algorithms and cutting-edge deep learning (DL) approaches to areas such as drug discovery, customer segmentation, fraud prevention, capacity planning, predictive maintenance, pricing optimization, call center analytics, player pose estimation, and event detection among others. The primary responsibilities of this role are to: Design, develop, and evaluate innovative ML/DL models to solve diverse challenges and opportunities across industriesInteract with customer directly to understand their business problems, and help them with defining and implementing scalable ML/DL solutions to solve themWork closely with account teams, research scientist teams, and product engineering teams to drive model implementations and new algorithmsThis position requires travel of up to 20%.
US, WA, Seattle
Are you a Ph.D. interested in the fields of machine learning, deep learning, automated reasoning, speech, robotics, computer vision, optimization, or quantum computing? Do you enjoy diving deep into hard technical problems and coming up with solutions that enable successful products that improve the lives of people in a meaningful way? If this describes you, come join our science teams at Amazon. As an Applied Scientist, you will have access to large datasets with billions of images and video to build large-scale systems. Additionally, you will analyze and model terabytes of text, images, and other types of data to solve real-world problems and translate business and functional requirements into quick prototypes or proofs of concept. We are looking for smart scientists capable of using a variety of domain expertise to invent, design, evangelize, and implement state-of-the-art solutions for never-before-solved problems.
US, WA, Seattle
Amazon internships are full-time (40 hours/week) for 12 consecutive weeks with start dates in May - July 2023. Our internship program provides hands-on learning and building experiences for students who are interested in a career in hardware engineering. This role will be based in Seattle, and candidates must be willing to work in-person.Corporate Projects (CPT) is a team that sits within the broader Corporate Development organization at Amazon. We seek to bring net-new, strategic projects to life by working together with customers and evolving projects from ZERO-to-ONE. To do so, we deploy our resources towards proofs-of-concept (POCs) and pilot programs and develop them from high-level ideas (the ZERO) to tangible short-term results that provide validating signal and a path to scale (the ONE). We work with our customers to develop and create net-new opportunities by relentlessly scouring all of Amazon and finding new and innovative ways to strengthen and/or accelerate the Amazon Flywheel.CPT seeks an Applied Science intern to work with a diverse, cross-functional team to build new, innovative customer experiences. Within CPT, you will apply both traditional and novel scientific approaches to solve and scale problems and solutions. We are a team where science meets application. A successful candidate will be a self-starter comfortable with ambiguity, strong attention to detail, and the ability to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. As an Applied Science Intern, you will own the design and development of end-to-end systems. You’ll have the opportunity to create technical roadmaps, and drive production level projects that will support Amazon Science. You will work closely with Amazon scientists, and other science interns to develop solutions and deploy them into production. The ideal scientist must have the ability to work with diverse groups of people and cross-functional teams to solve complex business problems.
US, IL, Chicago
MULTIPLE POSITIONS AVAILABLECompany: AMAZON.COM SERVICES LLCPosition Title: Data Scientist ILocation: Chicago, IllinoisPosition Responsibilities:Build the core intelligence, insights, and algorithms that support the real estate acquisition strategies for Amazon physical stores. Tackle cutting-edge, complex problems such as predicting the optimal location for new Amazon stores by bringing together numerous data assets, and using best-in-class modeling solutions to extract the most information out of them. Work with business stakeholders, software development engineers, and other data scientists across multiple teams to develop innovative solutions at massive scale.Amazon.com is an Equal Opportunity-Affirmative Action Employer – Minority / Female / Disability / Veteran / Gender Identity / Sexual Orientation #0000
US, WA, Seattle
Note that this posting is for a handful of teams within Amazon Robotics. Teams include: Robotics, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Optimization, and more.Are you excited about building high-performance robotic systems that can perceive and learn to help deliver for customers? The Amazon Robotics team is creating new science products and technologies that make this possible, at Amazon scale. We work at the intersection of computer vision, machine learning, robotic manipulation, navigation, and human-robot interaction.Amazon Robotics is seeking broad, curious applied scientists and engineering interns to join our diverse, full-stack team. In addition to designing, building, and delivering end-to-end robotic systems, our team is responsible for core infrastructure and tools that serve as the backbone of our robotic applications, enabling roboticists, applied scientists, software and hardware engineers to collaborate and deploy systems in the lab and in the field. We will give you the tools and support you need to invent with us in ways that are rewarding, fulfilling and fun. Come join us!A day in the lifeAs an intern you will develop a new algorithm to solve one of the challenging computer vision and manipulation problems in Amazon's robotic warehouses. Your project will fit your academic research experience and interests. You will code and test out your solutions in increasingly realistic scenarios and iterate on the idea with your mentor to find the best solution to the problem.
US, WA, Seattle
Are you excited about building high-performance robotic systems that can perceive, learn, and act intelligently alongside humans? The Robotics AI team is creating new science products and technologies that make this possible, at Amazon scale. We work at the intersection of computer vision, machine learning, robotic manipulation, navigation, and human-robot interaction.The Amazon Robotics team is seeking broad, curious applied scientists and engineering interns to join our diverse, full-stack team. In addition to designing, building, and delivering end-to-end robotic systems, our team is responsible for core infrastructure and tools that serve as the backbone of our robotic applications, enabling roboticists, applied scientists, software and hardware engineers to collaborate and deploy systems in the lab and in the field. Come join us!
US, WA, Bellevue
Employer: Amazon.com Services LLCPosition: Research Scientist IILocation: Bellevue, WA Multiple Positions Available1. Research, build and implement highly effective and innovative methods in Statistical Modeling, Machine Learning, and other quantitative techniques such as operational research and optimization to deliver algorithms that solve real business problems.2. Take initiative to scope and plan research projects based on roadmap of business owners and enable data-driven solutions. Participate in shaping roadmap for the research team.3. Ensure data quality throughout all stages of acquisition and processing of the data, including such areas as data sourcing/collection, ground truth generation, data analysis, experiment, evaluation and visualization etc.4. Navigate a variety of data sources, understand the business reality behind large-scale data and develop meaningful science solutions.5. Partner closely with product or/and program owners, as well as scientists and engineers in cross-functional teams with a clear path to business impact and deliver on demanding projects.6. Present proposals and results in a clear manner backed by data and coupled with conclusions to business customers and leadership team with various levels of technical knowledge, educating them about underlying systems, as well as sharing insights.7. Perform experiments to validate the feature additions as requested by domain expert teams.8. Some telecommuting benefits available.The pay range for this position in Bellevue, WA is $136,000-$184,000 (yr); however, base pay offered may vary depending on job-related knowledge, skills, and experience. A sign-on bonus and restricted stock units may be provided as part of the compensation package, in addition to a full range of medical, financial, and/or other benefits, dependent on the position offered. This information is provided by the Washington Equal Pay Act. Base pay information is based on market location. Applicants should apply via Amazon's internal or external careers site.#0000
US, VA, Arlington
The Central Science Team within Amazon’s People Experience and Technology org (PXTCS) uses economics, behavioral science, statistics, and machine learning to proactively identify mechanisms and process improvements which simultaneously improve Amazon and the lives, well-being, and the value of work to Amazonians. We are an interdisciplinary team, which combines the talents of science and engineering to develop and deliver solutions that measurably achieve this goal. As Director for PXT Central Science Technology, you will be responsible for leading multiple teams through rapidly evolving complex demands and define, develop, deliver and execute on our science roadmap and vision. You will provide thought leadership to scientists and engineers to invent and implement scalable machine learning recommendations and data driven algorithms supporting flexible UI frameworks. You will manage and be responsible for delivering some of our most strategic technical initiatives. You will design, develop and operate new, highly scalable software systems that support Amazon’s efforts to be Earth’s Best Employer and have a significant impact on Amazon’s commitment to our employees and communities where we both serve and employ 1.3 million Amazonians. As Director of Applied Science, you will be part of the larger technical leadership community at Amazon. This community forms the backbone of the company, plays a critical role in the broad business planning, works closely with senior executives to develop business targets and resource requirements, influences our long-term technical and business strategy, helps hire and develop engineering leaders and developers, and ultimately enables us to deliver engineering innovations.This role is posted for Arlington, VA, but we are flexible on location at many of our offices in the US and Canada.
US, VA, Arlington
Employer: Amazon.com Services LLCPosition: Data Scientist IILocation: Arlington, VAMultiple Positions Available1. Manage and execute entire projects or components of large projects from start to finish including data gathering and manipulation, synthesis and modeling, problem solving, and communication of insights and recommendations.2. Oversee the development and implementation of data integration and analytic strategies to support population health initiatives.3. Leverage big data to explore and introduce areas of analytics and technologies.4. Analyze data to identify opportunities to impact populations.5. Perform advanced integrated comprehensive reporting, consultative, and analytical expertise to provide healthcare cost and utilization data and translate findings into actionable information for internal and external stakeholders.6. Oversee the collection of data, ensuring timelines are met, data is accurate and within established format.7. Act as a data and technical resource and escalation point for data issues, ensuring they are brought to resolution.8. Serve as the subject matter expert on health care benefits data modeling, system architecture, data governance, and business intelligence tools. #0000
US, TX, Dallas
Employer: Amazon.com Services LLCPosition: Data Scientist II (multiple positions available)Location: Dallas, TX Multiple Positions Available:1. Assist customers to deliver Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) projects from beginning to end, by aggregating data, exploring data, building and validating predictive models, and deploying completed models to deliver business impact to the organization;2. Apply understanding of the customer’s business need and guide them to a solution using AWS AI Services, AWS AI Platforms, AWS AI Frameworks, and AWS AI EC2 Instances;3. Use Deep Learning frameworks like MXNet, PyTorch, Caffe 2, Tensorflow, Theano, CNTK, and Keras to help our customers build DL models;4. Research, design, implement and evaluate novel computer vision algorithms and ML/DL algorithms;5. Work with data architects and engineers to analyze, extract, normalize, and label relevant data;6. Work with DevOps engineers to help customers operationalize models after they are built;7. Assist customers with identifying model drift and retraining models;8. Research and implement novel ML and DL approaches, including using FPGA;9. Develop computer vision and machine learning methods and algorithms to address real-world customer use-cases; and10. Design and run experiments, research new algorithms, and work closely with engineers to put algorithms and models into practice to help solve customers' most challenging problems.11. Approximately 15% domestic and international travel required.12. Telecommuting benefits are available.#0000