Alexa Prize — State of the Art in Conversational AI

  • Chandra Khatri Amazon
  • Anu Venkatesh Amazon Alexa
  • Behnam Hedayatnia Amazon Alexa
  • Raefer Gabriel Amazon Alexa
  • Ashwin Ram Google Cloud
  • Rohit Prasad Amazon Alexa


To advance the state of the art in conversational AI, Amazon launched the Alexa Prize, a 2.5 million dollar competition that challenges university teams to build conversational agents, or "socialbots", that can converse coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. The Alexa Prize offers the academic community a unique opportunity to perform research at scale with real conversational data obtained by interacting with millions of Alexa users, along with user-provided ratings and feedback, over several months. This enables teams to effectively iterate, improve and evaluate their socialbots throughout the competition. Sixteen teams were selected for the inaugural competition last year. To build their socialbots, the students combined state-of-the-art techniques with their own novel strategies in the areas of Natural Language Understanding and Conversational AI. This article reports on the research conducted over the 2017-2018 year. While the 20 minute grand challenge was not achieved in the first year, the competition produced several conversational agents that advanced the state of the art, are interesting for everyday users to interact with, and help form a baseline for the second year of the competition.
How to Cite
Khatri, C., Venkatesh, A., Hedayatnia, B., Gabriel, R., Ram, A., & Prasad, R. (2018). Alexa Prize — State of the Art in Conversational AI. AI Magazine, 39(3), 40-55.