As someone whose academic and professional research has focused on making it easier for humans to engage with machines, I am excited about this opportunity to announce our 2018 Alexa Prize finalists. The two socialbots with the highest average customer ratings during the semifinal period were Alquist from Czech Technical University in Prague and Alana from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Our wildcard team and third finalist is Gunrock from the University of California, Davis.
Alexa Prize is Amazon’s $3.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI. Eight university teams selected earlier this year from around the world have been working tirelessly to create engaging socialbots. The challenge for these socialbots: converse coherently and engagingly for 20 minutes with humans on popular topics and news events. During the semifinals period, which occurred from July 2, 2018 through August 15, 2018, Alexa customers interacted with the teams’ socialbots by saying “Alexa, let’s chat” to any Alexa-powered device. Competing socialbots were randomly invoked in response to this utterance. At the end of the interaction, customers were prompted to provide a rating from 1 to 5 stars (5 being the highest) on how they felt about speaking with that socialbot. These customer ratings determined two of the teams moving on to the finals; Amazon selected the wildcard finalist.
We chose the wildcard finalist based on a combination of the following criteria:
- Ratings from Alexa customers
- Ratings from Amazon judges
- Depth and breadth of topics covered
- Appropriateness and accuracy of responses
- Scientific merit as determined by the content of their technical paper
Congratulations to Alana, Alquist, and Gunrock! Beginning later today you can help determine who will win the 2018 Alexa Prize by saying “Alexa, let’s chat” to any Alexa-powered device. When you do this, you’ll be conversing with one of our finalists’ socialbots. Over the next couple of months, Alexa customer interactions and feedback will be crucial to helping our finalists improve their socialbots. We will announce this year’s winner at the AI Summit taking place on November 27, 2018 at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas.
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 delighting Alexa customers. We will be publishing their technical papers in a special-edition Alexa Prize Journal to enable all teams to share their innovative ideas with the scientific community.
In the meantime, please help our finalists by simply saying “Alexa, let’s chat” to your Alexa-powered device. You can also follow #AlexaPrize on Twitter and bookmark our website for updates.