Alexa, Let's Work Together: Introducing the First Alexa Prize TaskBot Challenge on Conversational Task Assistance


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Since its inception in 2016, the Alexa Prize program has enabled hundreds of university students to explore and compete to develop conversational agents through the SocialBot Grand Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to build agents capable of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes, while achieving an average rating of at least 4.0/5.0. However, as conversational agents attempt to assist users with increasingly complex tasks, new conversational AI techniques and evaluation platforms are needed. The Alexa Prize TaskBot challenge, established in 2021, builds on the success of the SocialBot challenge by introducing the requirements of interactively assisting humans with real-world Cooking and Do-It-Yourself tasks, while making use of both voice and visual modalities. This challenge requires the TaskBots to identify and understand the user's need, identify and integrate task and domain knowledge into the interaction, and develop new ways of engaging the user without distracting them from the task at hand, among other challenges. This paper provides an overview of the TaskBot challenge, describes the infrastructure support provided to the teams with the CoBot Toolkit, and summarizes the approaches the participating teams took to overcome the research challenges. Finally, it analyzes the performance of the competing TaskBots during the first year of the competition.
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