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Amazon's Alexa Prize is Worth $2.5 Million

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Amazon unveiled its Alexa Prize, which offers a $2.5 million bounty to the person who can make Alexa more conversational. Alexa is the voice behind the company's artificial intelligence found inside of the Echo smart speaker, among other devices. It can answer Wikipedia-style questions, buy things from Amazon, schedule reminders, play music, order pizza, create to-do lists and much more. 

The Alexa Prize will become Amazon's annual competition designed to target university students dedicated to conversational AI. The inaugural one hopes it will find a developer who can create a socialbot that can speak "coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics and news events." The winning team will need to demonstrate Alexa can hold a normal, human conversation about popular topics for at least 20 minutes by using the Alexa Skills Kit. 

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Participating teams have quite the challenge ahead of them, as to win they'll need to address a variety of AI issues such as knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding and generation, context modeling, reasoning and dialog planning. The winning team will get $500,000, with $1 million going to the team's university. Up to 10 students will also get $100,000, Alexa-enabled devices (up to four per team), free AWS services and the support of the Alexa Skills Kit team. 

Amazon says you must be enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college, and to remain in good standing until November 2017. It also hinted that non-University teams may be allowed to compete, by saying teams not eligible for funding may still be invited to participate. Teams can submit applications between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28, 2016.

Signing up requires the team leader to create a free YouNoodle account, then team members will be invited to sign up. To sign up you'll need a team name, contact info for the team (including a faculty advisor), a statement of intent (500 words or less) and details on your intended technical approach (two page PDF maximum). 

Amazon expects teams will be prepared to unveil an initial design by the end of March 2017. Winners will compete in a November 2017 event and the final results will be announced at AWS re: Invent 2017 in Las Vegas, NV. The winners must demonstrate potential scientific contribution, technical merit, novelty and execution.