29-September, Seattle – Chatbots and AI are big tech topics this year, but going to be everyday communication points for all very shortly. Amazon wants to step up the game by challenging students to build a better conversationalist.
Call them robots, chatbots or conversational AI, every website or customer service phone system seems to be sprouting a text- or voice-based digital chatterbox to help guide you to the right contact point, solution or product.
Rumor is that the smartest can tell the angry customers by the stress levels in their voice and give them priority. But, these things are the version 1.0 or 2.0 on a road to, say, version 5.0 chatbots where they genuinely know and understand what we need, and how to get it to us.
Money in the Chat Bank
While Elon Musk is blowing billions on getting people to Mars, Amazon has $1.5 million up for grabs for universities or students to create a better bot to get us to that superior version. $500K of it is for the winner of the contest while a cool million goes to a team whose AI bot can hold a realistic 20 minute conversation.
The challenge has a year to run with the big final at Amazon’s re:invent show next November, where up to 10 teams will also get further funding and development tools to further their efforts.
A leading linguist, Steven Pinker, from Psychology Dept. at Harvard explains the complexity of the challenge ahead. “Everyday conversations that require context and understanding of the world come naturally to humans. Machines don’t have those advantages, which makes the Alexa Prize a particularly complex challenge for participants to solve.”
With Alexa, Siri, Google Voice Assistant and others helping drive interest in smart and conversational digital assistants, progress should be made fast in these areas. Anything that helps make customer support easier or smarter has to be welcomed and voice control will be vital in future smart cars and other areas of our lives.
If you’re interested in the details, check out the Alexa Prize page. Anyone can try Alexa in the Amazon range of Echo products, including the new Amazon Fire TV Stick, bringing the technology to homes for $.
Photo credit: Amazon
Source: Press release