Heriot-Watt fly the flag in major AI competition

Published: 03 September 2018

For the second year running, a team from Heriot-Watt has reached the final of the international, Amazon Alexa Prize.

The University will once again be the only institution to represent the UK in the high-profile competition as a finalist. 

Team Alana, comprising of seven PhD students and four faculty advisors, will travel to Las Vegas in November where they will compete against fellow finalists from the Czech Technical University and the University of California Davis as they vye for the coveted title.

The Edinburgh-based team recently navigated its way through the semi-final stage after impressing US customers with its advanced artificial intelligence software that can understand and respond to human conversation.

To once again reach the final of the Amazon Alexa Prize is a wonderful achievement and highlights the extraordinary talent we have in human voice recognition here at Heriot-Watt University...

Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University


Alana Team Leader Amanda Curry, who is studying Computer Science, said: “I’m really proud of the team and what we have achieved so far. The Amazon Alexa Prize pushes our capabilities but ultimately highlights the global talent pool we have at our disposal at Heriot-Watt. To reach the final for the second year running is a truly magnificent achievement.”

The Amazon Alexa Prize is a global university competition that is dedicated to the advancement of conversational artificial intelligence and named after the Alexa voice command system that powers the Amazon Echo.

It challenges teams to develop a software capable of understanding and responding to humans in a socially intelligent manner, over many different topics of conversation such as news, music, movies, and celebrities.

More than 100 teams from 22 countries entered last year’s competition when Heriot-Watt finished in an impressive third place.




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