BYU students 1 of 8 universities in world competing in Amazon contest to develop ‘social bot’

Mar 20, 2018, 9:53 PM | Updated: 10:10 pm

PROVO — As more and more people add voice control systems to their homes, a group of computer science students at BYU are part of an international competition to improve the artificial intelligence of these devices for Amazon.

“Alexa obviously uses artificial intelligence already in her system that converts voice into text that gets processed,” said Nancy Fulda, a Ph.D. student at BYU.

And while Alexa can already carry out voice commands, there are many limitations. The students at BYU are developing a social bot.

Eight universities around the world are being tasked with creating a social bot that can carry on a meaningful conversation with someone for at least 20 minutes.

BYU calls their bot, Eve.

“It has been a really difficult project because this the cutting edge, there is no one who has been able to do this before, we are trying to build a bot that you can talk to, that understands you and trying to push the bounds of artificial intelligence is really hard,” said Ben Murdoch, one of ten students involved in the development of the bot, which began in February.

Beginning this summer, actual Amazon users will put the eight bots to the test. Four teams will advance for more testing this fall and a winner will be named in November.

While the schools each received a $250,000 grant, the winning team will get half a million dollars. But beyond any award, students say this industry experience is the real prize.

“I am a junior here at BYU, and I still have this opportunity and that is something that is really rare to work on the cutting edge, to work with big companies and to build something that is going to impact people,” said Murdoch.

RELATED LINK: Developer.amazon.com


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BYU students 1 of 8 universities in world competing in Amazon contest to develop ‘social bot’