Five Alexa Prize finalists announced
Advances by student teams drive major improvements in users' experiences with socialbots
Introduced in 2016, the Alexa Prize is a first-of-its-kind opportunity, bringing together top academic talent from multiple universities, guided by Amazon scientists and engineers, to focus on a single problem: enabling delightful and engaging conversations between humans and AI.
Each year, academic teams design socialbots that Alexa customers can interact with through their Alexa-enabled devices. 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’ conversations in the final round remain coherent and engaging for 20 minutes. The first team to meet that challenge will win a $1 million research grant for its university.
In July 2019, 10 university teams were selected from a global pool of applicants to participate in the semifinal round of the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 3. And on May 6, 2020, five of those teams came one step closer to reaching their goal.
The three socialbots with the highest average customer ratings during the semifinals were automatically advanced to the finals: Alquist from the Czech Technical University in Prague, Emora from Emory University, and Gunrock from the University of California, Davis.
Two wildcard teams also advanced this year, based on evaluation criteria that included depth and breadth of topics covered, appropriateness and accuracy of responses, and scientific merit, as determined by the content of their technical papers. Those teams were Chirpy Cardinal from Stanford University and Athena from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
During the semifinals, customers held more than 793,000 conversations with teams’ socialbots, resulting in 19,000 hours of chat. The bots have evolved to cover a wide range of topics, from sports and movies to current events — including in-depth handling of questions about the COVID-19 crisis. They’ve also learned to tell jokes, find points of commonality with their conversants, and retrieve information relevant to conversation topics.
This year’s winners will be determined during the Socialbot Grand Challenge 3 Finals, to be held July 14-17, 2020. We are grateful for the work done by all of the Alexa Prize teams, for their creativity, passion, and contributions to both AI science and to delighting customers. We will be publishing the work of all 10 semifinalists in a special Alexa Prize Journal to come later this year.