FCT NOVA team is the only Portuguese team selected to investigate Amazon's chatbot


The NOVA School of Science and Technology was selected by the multinational Amazon to investigate the intelligent chat agents of the technology company, in the international challenge "Alexa TaskBot Challenge". A group of students from the Department of Computer Science / NOVA LINCS will investigate the future generation of chatbots, along with eight North American universities and one European university.

The Alexa TaskBot Challenge, created last year, is the first chatbot competition to feature multi-modal solutions, that is, conversational systems that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to present various response models, from audio to visual. This year, Amazon is challenging participants to investigate the next steps for chatbots, which will have a greater perception of the physical world than the current generation. The expectation is that TaskBot, Alexa's chat agent, will have effective communication and be 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 in the Department of Computer Science at FCT NOVA, coordinates the NOVA LINCS team that participates in the challenge. In 2022, the NOVA's team participated in the first "Alexa TaskBot Challenge" and came second in the competition with Task Wizard (TWIZ). TWIZ differentiated itself by introducing curious facts related to the tasks proposed to the chatbot, improving the experience of conversing with the system, and increasing engagement and empathy with the user.

"2023 is being the year when, finally, the general public starts to understand the relevance of chatbots, and above all, how these systems can make a difference in small tasks of our daily lives," argues João Magalhães, professor at FCT NOVA. "What we will now 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 composed by: 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 from Amazon 250 thousand dollars for research and 150 thousand dollars in cloud resources.