Alexa Prize TaskBot 2 Challenge Now Underway
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 17 February 2023

Teams from ten universities have been selected to take part in the second iteration of Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge. The list comprises five teams that participated in the inaugural challenge, including the three winning teams together with five new entrants, all from the US Universities.

The Alexa Taskbot Challenge is focused on developing agents that assist customers in completing tasks requiring multiple steps or decisions. It requires teams to build a chatbot that uses both voice and visual modalities, displaying images or diagrams on Echo Show or Amazon Fire tablets to augment instructions given by Alexa. It is planned to run for three years in parallel to the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge and if you want to know the current state of play, watch this video of the 2022 TaskBot Challenge finals: 

As with the main Alexa Social Bot challenge, the idea of having the previous year's winners participate again means that the bar should be raised with each iteration. The winner of the inaugural contest was team GRILLBot from the University of Glasgow which achieved a final month average rating of 3.86/5.0 from interactions with Amazon customers who initiated interaction with a bot by saying "Alexa, let's work together".

Second place was awarded a team from the NOVA School of Science and Technology in Lisbon, Portugal with their bot, Twiz, which increased customer engagement by mentioning curious facts related to the tasks being performed and third place honors went to Ohio State University with its TacoBot, which achieved an average rating of 3.55/5.0.

In last year's final Alexa guided judges through making brownies and a noodle dish and planning a birthday party for a 90 year old. This year’s challenge has been expanded to include more hobbies and at-home activities and the selection criteria for teams going forward to the competition included their innovative ideas on improving the presentation of visual aids, as well as the coordination of visual and verbal modalities.

Representatives from all ten teams attended a bootcamp during January to kickstart the competition and each university selected for the challenge receives a $250,000 research grant, Alexa-enabled devices, free Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing services to support their research and development efforts, access to Amazon scientists, the CoBot (conversational bot) toolkit and other tools such as automated speech recognition through Alexa, neural detection and generation models, conversational data sets, and design guidance and development support from the Alexa Prize team.

Amazon is committed to using the Alexa Prize to make progress towards "conversational AI" and in this week's announcement Reza Ghanadan, senior principal scientist with Alexa AI and head of Alexa Prize, is quoted saying

“Prize competitions provide an agile science experimentation framework for researchers and students encouraging them to explore transformational ideas at the boundaries of what is achievable. We have developed the CoBot platform and tools to lower the barriers to AI innovation for both the academic research community and students interested in conversational AI assistants. These tools allow students to quickly deploy their solutions at scale in the real world with Alexa, then observe, evaluate, and enhance their research results using feedback from Alexa customers.”

From the students' standpoint the merit of the competition is to be able to engage with Amazon's Alexa customer base with  , a member of team Sage from the University of California, Santa Cruz saying:

Although artificial intelligence has experienced explosive development in the past decade, there is still a gap between research and real-world application. The  TaskBot Challenge provides us with a unique opportunty to explore multimodal AI in practical situations. 

 

 

 

More Information

Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge

Ten university teams selected for Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge 2 

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The Art and Science of Conversational AI

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$500,000 Inaugural Alexa Prize Awarded

Amazon Invests In Conversational AI

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Last Updated ( Friday, 17 February 2023 )