The voice robot created by Czech Technical University students wins the prestigious Amazon competition


On Monday, August 16, Amazon announced the winners of the fourth year of the Alexa Prize Social Bot Grand Challenge. After three years in a silver and bronze position, this year a team from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University (CIIRC) developing the Alquist bot won the most valuable metal - gold.

The Alquist chatbot was born at CIIRC CTU in 2016 when a group of students led by artificial intelligence expert Jan Šedivý sent an application for the Alexa Prize competition announced by the American Amazon for the first time. The team was selected to compete with other unievrsity teams, mainly from the USA. The task was to create a social chatbot that would be able to talk fluently with its users, respond to questions, provide information, and have fun. In the first year, the Czech team placed in a great second place, which was of course a huge motivation to participate in other years.

"Getting a first place is, of course, a completely incredible feeling. We are on the podium for the fourth time, but this is our first overall victory. This year, we tried to create a system capable of flexible conversation, which synthesizes approaches with prepared scenarios and at the same time can better adapt to the needs of users, and that probably paid off for us, "says team leader Jakub Konrád.

Users and jurors of the competion confirmed that the conversations they had with Alquist were the longest, best, most valuable, and funniest, despite being programmed by students for whom English is a second language and the American environment and society are quite different than in the Czech Republic. In the finals, they defeated all their American competitors from Stanford University (2nd place), the University of Buffalo (3rd place), the University of California, Santa Cruz (finalist), and Emory University (finalist).

In addition to recognition for their excellent work and representation of the Czech Technical University on the international field, the team also received a financial reward of half a million dollars for a 14-minute interview with the machine.