Image shows a woman's hands placing tin foil over Thanksgiving turkey leftovers
The goal of the Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge challenge is to have student teams build agents that will help customers complete tasks requiring multiple steps, such as how to prepare a big meal.
Jodi Jacobson/iStock

"Alexa, let's work together” is now live!

Learn how you can help the university teams competing to develop agents that will assist customers with completing tasks requiring multiple steps.

In April 2021, Amazon announced the launch of the Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge to the academic community. The goal of this challenge is to have student teams build agents that will help customers complete tasks requiring multiple steps, while being guided by Alexa. This is the first conversational AI challenge to incorporate multimodal (voice and visual UI) customer experiences, and as such it is a hard conversational AI challenge. Consequently, this year the teams were asked to focus on two domains, cooking and home improvement, which involve some of the most common everyday tasks.

Ten university teams from around the globe were selected in May 2021 and each team is funded via a $250,000 grant to research and develop their bots. They worked hard over these last few months, leveraging the resources we provided including datasets from Whole Foods Market and wikiHow, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing services, our CoBot Toolkit, and Alexa team support. All ten teams’ bots passed the qualification bar and as of November 2021, customers in the US can try the TaskBots by saying “Alexa, assist me.” One of the ten TaskBots will start and, at the end of the interaction, customers can provide ratings and feedback to help the teams improve. The challenge will run until May 2022 culminating in a live Finals event, at which point a winner will be announced.

Now is the time to help these student teams by engaging with their TaskBots. Next time you want to fix something at home or cook a nice dinner for family or friends, you can say “Alexa, assist me” and see how it works for you. This is early-stage research, so your first experience might be rough around the edges. But this is the nature of research within a difficult field, so please don’t get discouraged and give another TaskBot an opportunity to assist you. Please keep trying these TaskBots on a daily or weekly basis as the teams are continually working to improve their TaskBots, in part based on your feedback.

Here are a few tasks you might want to try:

  • Fix a leaky faucet;
  • Bake an apple crumble; or
  • Create something tasty with holiday leftovers.

This is a win-win opportunity. Hopefully the bots will assist you in a home repair, or in preparing a delicious meal, and you’ll be assisting these students in advancing the science behind conversational multimodal AI, one of the toughest challenges in our field. There’s no barrier to entry. Just say, “Alexa, assist me.”

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