Archive for the ‘Talks’ Category

An Inside Look at the 2017 Alexa Prize Finals

The Alexa Prize is an annual university competition to advance the state of Conversational AI. Last November, Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist, Alexa Machine Learning, and I had the pleasure of announcing the winner of the inaugural competition.

Judging a conversational AI competition is super hard because conversation is inherently subjective; there isn’t a clear right or wrong response at each turn in a dialog, nor a precise definition of what makes a conversation “coherent” or “engaging”. This short film explains how the finals were conducted, and showcases the winning teams from University of Washington, Czech Technical University, and Heriot-Watt University.

See what the best conversational socialbots can do today, and what more needs to be done to solve this very hard problem.


VIEW THE FILM:

youtu.be/WTGuOg7GXYU


SPEAK WITH THE SOCIALBOTS:
Just say “Alexa, let’s chat” to your Alexa-enabled device.

Podcast: How Amazon’s Alexa Learns

Much of the ballyhoo around intelligent home assistance devices is that they make life easier for us: from regulating our thermostats to freeing our hands while we check a favorite recipe for roast turkey, to playing that favorite jam to get us pumped up in the morning. And it turns out that because these devices are designed to learn from our patterns and habits, they become more helpful the longer we live with them.

In this podcast, Ashwin Ram, one of the minds behind Amazon Alexa, describes how the company is balancing privacy concerns with natural language recognition to design a more effective device.

KelloggInsight podcast with Jennifer Cutler, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST / READ THE TRANSCRIPT:

insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/podcast-how-amazons-alexa-learns

TED: Imagine a world of AI

Ashwin Ram works on the AI behind Alexa, one of several new bots that might change the way your home and your life function within the next few years. Imagine a bot that turns on your lights, shops for you, even helps you make decisions. Learn more about a bot-enabled future that might have you saying (like Shah Rukh Khan does): “Alexa, I love you!”


TALK & TRANSCRIPT:
#TomorrowsWorld made easier with Artificial Intelligence. #TEDTalksIndiaNayiSoch

ted.com/talks/ashwin_ram_could_bots_make_your_life_better


BEHIND THE SCENES:
Innovator and entrepreneur, Ashwin Ram believes AI will changes our lives in future. #TomorrowsWorld #TEDTalksIndiaNayiSoch

youtube.com/watch?v=kDvIsRuaq5k


FULL #TOMORROWSWORLD EPISODE:
Can you imagine what #TomorrowsWorld will be like? Shah Rukh Khan introduces.

tedtalksindianayisoch.hotstar.com/TED/episode-4.php


ALL TED TALKS INDIA NAYI SOCH:
#TEDTalksIndiaNayiSoch is a groundbreaking TV series showcasing new thinking from some of the brightest brains in India and beyond and hosted by “The King of Bollywood,” Shah Rukh Khan.

ted.com/series/ted_talks_india_nayi_soch

Announcing Winners of 2017 Alexa Prize

Earlier today, Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist, Alexa Machine Learning, and I had the pleasure of announcing the winner of the inaugural Alexa Prize competition for university students dedicated to accelerating the field of conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

Congratulations to team Sounding Board, an inspiring group of students from the University of Washington, whose socialbot earned an average score of 3.17 on a 5-point scale from our panel of independent judges and achieved an average conversation duration of 10:22. As the winner of our inaugural competition, team Sounding Board earned our $500,000 first-place prize, which will be shared among the students.

We also had the privilege of honoring and surprising our other finalists on stage. Our runner up was team Alquist from Czech Technical University in Prague. We presented them with a $100,000 prize for their efforts. We also awarded our third-place winner, team What’s Up Bot from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, with a $50,000 prize.

CHAT WITH THE WINNERS:

Just say “Alexa, let’s chat” to any Alexa-enabled device. (If you’re outside the U.S., set your Amazon Preferred Marketplace (PFM) to U.S. or use a U.S. based Amazon account.)


VIEW THE KEYNOTE:

youtu.be/HXtjdXjpJwI?t=32m18s


VIEW A SHORT FILM SHOWCASING THE WINNING SOCIALBOTS AND HOW THEY WERE SELECTED:

youtu.be/WTGuOg7GXYU


READ MORE:

developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/1a6a19d8-e45d-4b3b-981d-776a378ba625/university-of-washington-students-win-inaugural-alexa-prize

Conversational AI: The Science behind the Alexa Prize

Conversational agents are exploding in popularity. However, much work remains in the area of social conversation as well as free-form conversation over a broad range of domains and topics. To advance the state of the art in conversational AI, Amazon launched the Alexa Prize, a 2.5-million-dollar university competition where sixteen selected university teams were challenged to build conversational agents, known as “socialbots”, to converse coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics such as Sports, Politics, Entertainment, Fashion and Technology for 20 minutes.

The Alexa Prize offered the academic community a unique opportunity to perform research with a live system used by millions of users. The competition provided university teams with real user conversational data at scale, along with the user-provided ratings and feedback augmented with annotations by the Alexa team. This enabled teams to effectively iterate and make improvements throughout the competition while being evaluated in real-time through live user interactions.

To build their socialbots, university teams combined state-of-the-art techniques with novel strategies in the areas of Natural Language Understanding, Context Modeling, Dialog Management, Response Generation, and Knowledge Acquisition. To support the teams’ efforts, the Alexa Prize team made significant scientific and engineering investments to build and improve Conversational Speech Recognition, Topic Tracking, Dialog Evaluation, Voice User Experience, and tools for traffic management and scalability.

This paper outlines the advances created by the university teams as well as the Alexa Prize team to achieve the common goal of solving the problem of Conversational AI.

Conversational AI: The Science behind the Alexa Prize

by Ashwin Ram, Rohit Prasad, Chandra Khatri, Anu Venkatesh, Raefer Gabriel, Qing Liu, Jeff Nunn, Behnam Hedayatnia, Ming Cheng, Ashish Nagar, Eric King, Kate Bland, Amanda Wartick, Yi Pan, Han Song, Sk Jayadevan, Gene Hwang, Art Pettigrue

Proceedings of the 2017 Alexa Prize
Invited talk at NIPS-2017 Workshop on Conversational AI
Invited talk at re:Invent 2017 (with Spyros Matsoukas)

READ THE PAPER:

arxiv.org/abs/1801.03604

WATCH THE TALK:

youtu.be/pn5QJQZjGpM

			

Conversational News Experiences

News consumption is a passive experience—reading print or online newspapers, listening to radio shows and podcasts, watching television broadcasts. News producers create, curate, and organize  content which consumers absorb passively. With the advent of interactive conversational technologies ranging from chatbots to voice-based conversational assistants such as Amazon Alexa, there is an opportunity to engage consumers in more interactive experiences around news.

At the Computation+Journalism symposium held at Northwestern University this year, Emily Withrow, editor at Quartz Bot Studio and assistant professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and I had a fireside chat to share recent technological developments in this area and explore what kinds of conversational news experiences these technologies might enable.

Panel at the 2017 Computation+Journalism Symposium, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. #cj2017 

Talking AI with Sebastian Thrun

Udacity blog: Artificial Intelligence by its very nature promises so much, and the potential seems so vast it staggers the imagination. Excitement in this field runs higher every day, as the ongoing process of translating the possible into the actual produces newer and more incredible innovations.

With this excitement come concerns, of course, and it is perhaps understandable that some people continue to see Artificial Intelligence as some sort of a threat. This worry fails to take into consideration two key storylines: 1) AI is an augmentative technology; it extends our abilities, it does not replace them, and 2) AI, by assuming responsibility for repetitive and mundane tasks, frees us for more creative and fulfilling activity.  

Some observers have even gone so far as to suggest that intelligent machines represent a kind of end to “human-ness” itself; meaning, those things we think of as being most human—the ability to love, to make moral and ethical decisions, to create art—are predicted to fall by the wayside before the advance of intelligent machines.

Dr. Ashwin Ram, Senior Manager of AI at Amazon Alexa, spoke to Sebastian Thrun, President and Co-Founder of Udacity, about AI, and his foundational exposure to the “human side of technology” as he pursued his PhD in AI at Yale. This is a deeply insightful conversation, and should be required viewing for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of AI, and what it all means for humanity.

Read more / View the talk:
blog.udacity.com/2017/07/ashwin-ram-sebastian-thrun-discuss-ai.html