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Showing posts by Prem Natarajan

May 11, 2020

Prem Natarajan

The Alexa Prize SocialBot Grand Challenge is now in its third year.  And for a third time participating student teams have made exciting advances in the state-of-the-art of conversational AI.  With gratitude for the efforts of all the teams this year, I am delighted to announce the five teams that are advancing to the Alexa Prize Finals.

The three socialbots with the highest average customer ratings during the semifinal period have automatically advanced: Alquist from the Czech Technical University in Prague, Emora from Emory University, and Gunrock from the University of California, Davis. We also advanced two wildcard teams this year based on evaluation criteria that included ratings from Alexa customers, depth and breadth of topics covered, appropriateness and accuracy of responses, and scientific merit as determined by the content of their technical papers: Chirpy Cardinal from Stanford University and Athena from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In July 2019, ten university teams were selected from applications submitted by labs around the world to compete for the Alexa Prize. Since then, teams have been working tirelessly to delight customers with engaging and coherent conversations on a variety of popular topics. Now, the advancing five teams will compete for the Grand Prize.  If they have a composite score of 4.0 or higher, and at least two-thirds of their Socialbot’s conversations with interactors last for 20 minutes, they will win a $1 million research grant for their University.

Congratulations to Alquist, Athena, Chirpy Cardinal, Emora, and Gunrock!

On behalf of the entire Amazon Alexa organization, I want to thank all of the Alexa Prize teams for their creativity, passion, and contributions to both AI science and to delighting Alexa customers. We will be publishing the teams’ technical papers in a special-edition Alexa Prize Journal later this summer, enabling all teams to share their innovative ideas with the scientific community.

In the meantime, please continue to support our finalists by chatting with their socialbots, it’s as easy as saying “Alexa, let’s chat” to your Alexa-enabled device. You can also follow #AlexaPrize on Twitter and bookmark our website for further updates.

December 04, 2019

Prem Natarajan

This past September, 10 university teams, from schools around the world, officially began their journey with the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 3. Teams spent part of their summer attending an intensive boot camp to learn what it means to be customer obsessed and how to integrate their ideas into the Alexa Prize infrastructure. Now ready to compete, teams have built an AI (called a socialbot), at scale, capable of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes. Their socialbots should be able to discuss popular topics and news events such as entertainment, fashion, politics, sports, and technology.

Even as innovators create AI that can drive cars, play board games, and diagnose diseases, the seemingly intuitive task of everyday social conversation remains an elusive goal. Undaunted, the student teams have geared up to tackle the challenge. As they build their socialbots, they will encounter esoteric problems like context modeling and dialog planning as well as exoteric problems like user experience and conversational engagement. The Alexa Prize provides a unique opportunity for industry and academia to come together to address these challenges.

We invite you to join the students on their journey and help them along the way. You can interact with their socialbots simply by saying, “Alexa, let’s chat” on any Alexa-enabled device in the US-English marketplace. You will be connected to one of the 10 socialbots at random. Chat about your favorite topics, say “Stop” when you are done, and share your feedback.

It is still early days in this pioneering journey, and we know the teams will appreciate your help and patience as they learn, iterate, and build new interactive conversational experiences. The socialbots will improve quickly based on your use and feedback. We hope you’ll enjoy interacting with them.

The student teams are working hard, having fun, and well on their way to making history. We look forward to having you join the Alexa Prize community to support them along the way.

Follow the #AlexaPrize hashtag and bookmark our site for updates.

March 25, 2019

Prem Natarajan

With the increasing use of AI in everyday life, fairness in artificial intelligence is a topic of increasing importance across academia, government, and industry. Here at Amazon, the fairness of the machine learning systems we build to support our businesses is critical to establishing and maintaining our customers’ trust.

Today we are excited to announce that we are working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to commit up to $10 million each in research grants over the next three years focused on fairness in AI.

NSF-Amazon_image.pngAI technologies are contributing to economic growth and have the potential to improve the world around us. To ensure that these positive benefits are realized, we believe we must work closely with academic researchers to develop innovative solutions that address issues of fairness, transparency, and accountability and to ensure that biases in data don’t get embedded in the systems we create.

NSF and Amazon are working together to support computational research focused on fairness in AI, with the goal of contributing to trustworthy AI systems that are readily accepted and deployed to tackle grand challenges facing society. Specific topics of interest include but are not limited to transparency, explainability, accountability, potential adverse biases and effects, mitigation strategies, validation of fairness, and considerations of inclusivity. Funded projects will help to enable broadened acceptance of AI systems, helping the U.S. further capitalize on the potential of AI technologies. Although Amazon provides partial funding for this program, NSF will make award determinations independently and in accordance with NSF’s merit review process.

“We are excited to announce this new collaboration with Amazon to fund research focused on fairness in AI,” said Jim Kurose, NSF's head for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “This program will support research related to the development and implementation of trustworthy AI systems that incorporate transparency, fairness, and accountability into the design from the beginning.”

Moving forward, NSF and Amazon intend to continue the program with calls for additional proposals in 2020 and 2021.

Researchers can find more information on the program and review the call for proposals on NSF.gov. Letters of Intent must be submitted by May 10, 2019, for consideration. Research funded under the joint Amazon-NSF fairness program is expected to result in open-source tools, publicly available datasets, and publications that are widely accessible.

Prem Natarajan is vice president of natural understanding in the Alexa AI group.

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