Sunday, April 30, 2017

Alquist mission continues

The Alquist team has just returned from the Alexa Prize Summit. We have met with Alexa researchers, developers business developers, and all competing university teams. We enjoyed the three days of great fun discussing the conversational AI.

The summit opened with a visit to the Amazon Fulfillment Center. We were stunned observing the Amazon robots smoothly transporting racks with goods to pickers. The center is an excellent example of automation, optimization, and efficiency.

We have started the summit with a review of our Alquist social bot. Amazon experts commented on our accomplishment. No problems, we have passed.

The key part of the summit were the Alexa team presentations. The development of a social bot is a complex task requiring knowledge from many different disciplines. Therefore the presentations were covering many topics ranging from speech technology, NLP, Deep Learning to how to carry an engaging dialog. The Alquist team members are CVUT students with in-depth knowledge in AI. Therefore the most revealing for us were the non-technical presentations. I liked the Celeste Headlee presentation. She is a reporter on the public radio and a professional opera singer. She taught us how to Make Great Conversations. The key message:  Researchers discovered that talking about yourself activates the same pleasure centers in your brain as sex and cocaine. We learn how the Alquist needs to behave. We also got a lesson about Best Practices for Promoting Our team. The advice is simple: promote better the Alquist team and the Conversational AI.

The summit was not only about technology, on Wednesday evening we joined the screening of just released Amazon Studios Movie “The Lost City of Z” produced by Brat Pitt.

We also looked around the Seattle City on Friday afternoon. We were lucky it was one of the few days with blue sky. I gave up queuing for the lift to the Space Needle Observation Deck and instead I have climbed one of the Seattle hills. The sky was clear and the more than 4000 meters high Mount Rainier with its snow cap seemed like just behind the city.

The Alquist team was excited by the Alexa Price Summit. We had a unique opportunity to meet with the Amazon Alexa team and the competing university teams. We had the chance to experience the Amazon enthusiasm and the entrepreneurial spirit. We got back charged with fresh energy to push the conversational qualities of Alquist even further.

If you are interested in building interesting conversational applications, join eClub and the Alquist team and help us to make Alquist even better. There are many AI tasks we need to improve, some of them we have not touched yet. It does not matter if you do not have any experience, we will teach you. Thanks to Amazon we can give you a scholarship. Join us and enjoy the feeling of success!

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