BYU Team Competes in Amazon’s Alexa Chatbot Challenge

Emotive Adversarial Ensembles

Smart speakers were all the rage last year, from Google Home to the Apple Home Pod to Amazon’s Echo, chances are you have one of these in your house.

Now, Amazon wants to make Alexa even smarter. The company issued a challenge late last year to universities around the globe, calling on programmers to create a bot that will help Alexa chat with users. Meet the team from BYU.

BYU became one of eight university teams tasked with the challenge to create a conversational AI system for Amazon’s Alexa. The team of 10 students is building a fully functioning socialbot that you can hold a real conversation with. According to a KSL Article, Amazon granted each team with $250,000 to invest in their research lab and will win $500,000 to split amongst themselves if their bot wins.

According to Eve’s website,

“EVE stands for Emotive Adversarial Ensembles, a combination of machine learning terms that describe her overall structure. Eve attempts to express and interpret emotion using a group of response generators, called an ensemble, that help her decide what to say. The word adversarial does not describe her personality, but rather is a reference to the way her component neural networks will be trained.”

At the moment, Alexa is just a system with preprogrammed responses. You’ve come across a question or task that she hasn’t been able to complete because of this. Amazon wants its smart speaker to be able to answer questions like, “Alexa, why is it important for me to get an education?” or “Alexa, how do I cheer up my sister?”

BYU’s team is trying to create a bot that will model the human with whom it’s talking and fill that user’s need.

The team began working on the project in February and has until July before a semifinal round where five schools will be eliminated and the remaining teams will compete for the top spot. The final winner will be announced in November.

Good luck to EVE and the 10 students competing for BYU.

Learn more at Eve’s Website.



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