1 Tags The Amazon Echo Dot wants to talk. Ben Fox Rubin/CNET Someday, you may ask Amazon’s Alexa about the weather in Miami and that query will quickly flourish into an extended conversation with the voice assistant about booking weekend getaways there.That kind of back-and-forth dialogue with any digital assistant isn’t possible today, except in limited settings, like asking for local movie times. But Amazon is working on this very big concept of chatting with a robot with the help of its Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, a competition among colleges to build the best social bot.On Wednesday, the Alexa Prize unveiled its latest class of colleges for its third year of competition. The announcement coincided with the kick off of Amazon’s inaugural re:MARS science and tech conference in Las Vegas.Here are this year’s competing schools:Carnegie Mellon UniversityCzech Technical University in PragueEmory UniversityMoscow Institute of Physics and TechnologyStanford UniversityUniversity of California, DavisUniversity of California, IrvineUniversity of California, San DiegoUniversity of California, Santa CruzUniversity of Michigan”We are very early,” Rohit Prasad, the head scientist for Alexa’s artificial-intelligence team, said in an interview. “While there’s been progress over the past two years, I think we’re at least five to eight years away before we can meet the ultimate goal of having a real, coherent and engaging conversation for 20 minutes with any of these bots.”The Alexa Prize is part of Amazon’s broad mission of making its voice assistant smarter, more human-like and more conversational, so it can become more useful and engaging for its users. The benefits of creating a better digital assistant could be huge. It could allow Amazon to have a technology millions of customers rely on, helping it sell more smart speakers and products through voice shopping, while also helping it capture useful data about its users. But, Amazon isn’t alone in this pursue, with Google, Apple and Samsung all working on their own assistants.Also, with consumers focusing more on their data privacy, Alexa may face a less receptive audience in the future, no matter how clever it becomes.Prasad said the Alexa Prize is already paying dividends in a number of ways. First, the prize is helping familiarize and inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers with voice computing. Also, concepts from past years’ social bots have served as inspiration or mirrored some of the predictive and conversational elements Amazon has already introduced into Alexa.Lastly, the longer-form conversations customers have with Alexa as part of the competition have already helped Alexa get smarter. The assistant is typically fed short bits of dialogue that involve a request and an Alexa response. The Alexa Prize offers a useful way of training the artificial intelligence on more substantial conversation, Prasad said.To take part in the Alexa Prize, consumers can simply say, “Alexa, let’s chat,” to talk to a social bot. The newest group of social bots will become available in September.Prasad said the audio from these conversations is never shared with the competing schools and consumers are able to delete these chats if they want. Text transcripts are provided to the schools to help them improve their bots.Applications for this year’s competition came in from 15 countries. University of California, Davis, which was last year’s winner, was automatically allowed to enter this year’s competition without having to apply again.The selected schools will receive research grants from Amazon, Alexa team support and Alexa-enabled devices to complete their work. Last year’s winner received $500,000. Czech Technical University in Prague, another repeat entrant this year, received a second-place prize of $100,000 last year. Alexa Amazon Voice recognition Comment Share your voice Smart Home
The much-awaited ‘Aadi Mahotsav’ – a fortnight-long tribal festival, kick-started on Thursday by none other than Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu. The 15-day tribal extravaganza is an initiative of the government to promote the tribal culture, cuisine and commerce.The festival, which will feature an exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts, art, paintings, fabric, jewellery through 204 stalls, is being organised in different parts of the national Capital such as Dilli Haat INA, Central Park, Rajiv Chowk, Delhi Haat Janakpuri and Baba Kharak Singh Marg. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfAt the fest, over 750 tribal artisans and artists from over 25 states will be participating to enthral the residents of the Capital city with their primitive dance and music.While inaugurating the festival, the Vice President said that the government wants to bring tribal communities into the mainstream. “Some people argue that we must let the tribals remain the way they are, but they should also cooperate and partner with the rest of the country and it is the job of the government to facilitate that,” Naidu said. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThe Vice President also said that government seeks to promote interaction between the tribal artisans and the mainstream designers from reputed design organisations. “Events like ‘Aadi Mahotsav’ are very important in this regard. The government has formed the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) for achieving this,” he added.The Vice President also appealed to the Adivasi communities to support and encourage people who bring change through democracy and not those who promote violence.”Let me say that guns can never be successful in a democracy. There can only be lost through guns. There (the tribal areas) nowadays the naxalvadis or the maovadis want to bring about change. If they are really interested in change and believe in their ideology then they should participate in democracy… They should go to the people with their beliefs, encourage people and win elections and then later try to implement their ideologies,” Naidu said. As Indian tribes constitute 8 percent of the total population of the country, which is very significant, the national objective of inclusive development includes the development of tribes as well, he said.Naidu also appreciated the wide range and beauty of Indian handicrafts, which include hand-woven textiles, and paintings. “It is true that tribals did not create these for the market but for their own use. But they need cash too for the sundry, and it is important that their skills are channelled to promote their sources of income,” he said.On the occasion, Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said that the government had introduced a number of programmes like the Friends of Tribes Card, opening of franchise outlets and give a push to retail trade through exhibitions.”The ministry was targeting to achieve a target of Rs 100 crore in sales of tribal products to raise tribal incomes. TRIFED has achieved a turnover of Rs 20 crore in the sale of tribal products this year. It has also entered the electronic and digital era and signed MoUs with leading e-commerce portals, including GeM, a government of India portal for e-commerce,” Oram said.”Tribes India outlets accept payments by credit card and swipe machines to promote digital transactions. Tribals in Aadi Mahotsav have been trained for use of modern retail machines,” the minister added.”The 15-day Mahotsav promises to be a feast of shopping, exotic dining and fine music from artists from all over the country,” said Tribal Secretary Leena Nair, adding that the traditional tribal jewellery, the bamboo cane would also prove to be items of attraction.”The tribal textiles manufactured by master tribal craftsmen from Jammu and Kashmir in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South and from Gujarat in the East to Nagaland/Sikkim in the West will win the heart of Delhiites,” Nair said.