UW Team Wins $500,000 for Conversational Computer

Nov 28, 2017
Originally published on November 28, 2017 5:33 pm

A team from the University of Washington has won a major award for artificial intelligence: the inaugural Alexa Prize from Amazon.

The $500,000 award was announced today at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent 2017 conference in Las Vegas.

“It’s so exciting, we are very proud of our team and the whole University of Washington community,” said Hao Fang, leader of Sounding Board, a team composed of UW electrical engineering and computer science graduate students and faculty.

Team Sounding Board was one of three international finalists. Their task was to develop a “socialbot” capable of sustaining a coherent conversation about popular topics for 20 minutes.

Fang said the team didn’t want just a chatterbot, they wanted it to have meaningful conversations using trending topics on the web.

“And so in this way we can actively steer the conversation when the user doesn’t specify a topic,” he said.

The $500,000 prize will be split among the five team members: Fang, Hao Cheng, Elizabeth Clark, Ariel Holtzman, and Maarten Sap.

Fang said he doesn’t know how he will spend his share.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.