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August 22, 2018

Kevin Crews

Today we announce an expansion of the Amazon Alexa Fellowship from 4 universities in 2017 to 18 universities in 2018, fueling the future of conversational AI research, education, and entrepreneurship. 

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March 02, 2017

Douglas Booms

Voice technology carries enormous promise, as many people know from their interactions with Alexa, the voice service that powers devices like Amazon Echo. Our teams here at Amazon are working hard to unlock that potential, but innovation requires a collective effort, from large companies like ours to two-person startups, and from casual hobbyists to major academic institutions.

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Today, we’re excited to announce the Alexa Fund Fellowship, a new program to support universities and researchers focused on transformative voice technologies such as text-to-speech (TTS), natural language understanding (NLU), automatic speech recognition (ASR) and conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

Alexa Fund Fellows will receive funding, access to Alexa devices, and mentoring from an Alexa Science team member to develop an undergraduate or graduate curriculum around one or more of these disciplines. The year-long program culminates in a demo day where students can showcase their work for peers, university faculty and members of the Alexa team.

We’re also pleased to announce our first group of university participants: Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Johns Hopkins University, University of Southern California (USC), and University of Waterloo. Both Carnegie Mellon and Waterloo have already chosen fellows and begun offering classes for engineering students, while courses from Johns Hopkins and USC will begin in fall 2017.

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November 14, 2016

Ashwin Ram

On September 29, 2016, Amazon announced the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. We received applications from leading universities across 22 countries. Each application was carefully reviewed by senior Amazon personnel against a rigorous set of criteria covering scientific contribution, technical merit, novelty, and ability to execute. Teams of scientists, engineers, user experience designers, and product managers read, evaluated, discussed, argued, and finally selected the ten teams who would be invited to participate in the competition. Wait, make that twelve; we received so many good applications from graduate and undergraduate students that we decided to sponsor two additional teams.

Today, we’re excited to announce the 12 teams selected to compete with an Amazon sponsorship. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Carnegie-Mellon University: CMU Magnus
  • Carnegie-Mellon University: TBD
  • Czech Technical University, Prague: eClub Prague
  • Heriot-Watt University, UK: WattSocialBot
  • Princeton University: Princeton Alexa
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: BAKAbot
  • University of California, Berkeley: Machine Learning @ Berkeley
  • University of California, Santa Cruz: SlugBots
  • University of Edinburgh, UK: Edina
  • University of Montreal, Canada: MILA Team
  • University of Trento, Italy: Roving Minds
  • University of Washington, Seattle: HuskyBot

These teams will each receive a $100,000 research grant as a stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free Amazon Web Services (AWS) services to support their development efforts, access to new Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) APIs, and support from the Alexa team. Teams invited to participate without sponsorship will be announced on December 12, 2016.

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September 29, 2016

Ashwin Ram

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous. With advances in technology, algorithms, and sheer compute power, it is now becoming practical to utilize AI techniques in many everyday applications including transportation, healthcare, gaming, productivity, and media. Yet one seemingly intuitive task for humans still eludes computers: natural conversation. Simple and natural for humans, voice communication in everyday language continues to be one of the ultimate challenges for AI. Human conversation requires the ability to understand the meaning of spoken language, relate that meaning to the context of the conversation, create a shared understanding and world view between the parties, model discourse and plan conversational moves, maintain semantic and logical coherence across turns, and to generate natural speech.

Today, we are pleased to announce the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. Teams of university students around the world are invited to participate in the Alexa Prize (see contest rules for details). The challenge is to create a socialbot, an Alexa skill that converses coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. We challenge teams to invent an Alexa socialbot smart enough to engage in a fun, high quality conversation on popular topics for 20 minutes.

Participating teams will advance several areas of conversational AI including knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning and dialog planning. Alexa users will experience truly novel, engaging conversational interactions.

Up to ten teams of students will be selected to receive a $100,000 research grant as a stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services to support their development efforts, and support from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) team. Additional teams not eligible for funding may be invited to participate. University teams can submit their applications between September 29 and October 28, 2016, here. The competition will officially start on November 14, 2016 and run until November 2017, concluding with an award ceremony to be held at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, NV.

As we say at Amazon, this is Day 1 for conversational AI. We are excited to see where you will go next, and to be your partners in this journey. Good luck to all of the teams.

Learn more about Alexa Prize.

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