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Portuguese team selected to investigate Amazon chatbot

NOVA School of Science and Technology is the only Portuguese university selected to investigate Amazon chatbots.

The NOVA School of Science and Technology | FCT NOVA was selected by the multinational Amazon to investigate the technology company’s intelligent conversational agents, in the international challenge “Alexa TaskBot Challenge”.

A group of students from the Department of Informatics / NOVA LINCS will investigate the future generation of chatbots, along with eight North American and one European universities.

The “Alexa TaskBot Challenge”, created last year, is the first competition of chatbots with multimodal solutions, that is, conversational systems that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to present different response models, from audio to visual.

This year, Amazon challenges participants to investigate the next steps of chatbots, which will have a perception of the physical world superior to the current generation. The expectation is that TaskBot, Alexa’s conversational agent, has effective communication and is able to guide the user in performing manual tasks, from cooking to making origami.

However, these advances require new AI methods, planning, and knowledge of the world, features still unexplored in chatbots. João Magalhães, professor at the Department of Informatics at FCT NOVA, coordinates the NOVA LINCS team that participates in the challenge.

In 2022, the college team participated in the first “Alexa TaskBot Challenge” and took second place in the competition with Task Wizard (TWIZ). O
TWIZ differentiated itself by introducing curious facts related to the tasks proposed to the chatbot, improving the conversation experience with the system, and increasing the involvement and empathy with the user.

“2023 is being the year in which, finally, the general public begins to understand the relevance of chatbots, and above all, how these systems can make a difference in small tasks of our day to day”, argues João Magalhães, professor at FCT NEW.

“What we are now going to investigate is the future of chatbots, in particular Alexa’s TaskBot. The potential of these systems is immense, but there are still many unexplored areas”.

The FCT NOVA team is made up of: Rafael Ferreira, Diogo Tavares, Diogo Silva, Rodrigo Valério, Inês Simões and João Bordalo. The team will be guided by professors João Magalhães and David Semedo, and will receive US$250,000 from Amazon for research and US$150,000 in cloud resources.

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