THE DOWNLOAD: ‘Alexa, Pay This Team $500K’

Students pose with a $500,000 check in Las Vegas.
Members of team Gunrock, UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students who won Amazon’s Alexa Prize competition. (Zhou Yu/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Teams created artificial intelligence conversation “bots” in Amazon-sponsored competition
  • Men's basketball holds its own against Big Ten team
  • Goat continues to recover after suffering burns in Camp Fire

UC Davis students took first place in the 2018 Alexa Prize Finals, beating out teams from universities in Scotland and the Czech Republic in the Amazon-sponsored competition to turn voice assistant Alexa into a better conversationalist, the ecommerce company announced today (Nov. 27).

Amazon presented a $500,000 prize to be divided equally among the 11 undergraduate and graduate students who comprised the Gunrock team.

Teams in the competition would turn their chatbots over to real-world Alexa users for judging. They would say, “Alexa, let’s chat," then rate the ensuing conversations.

UC Davis, Czech Technical University in Prague and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh made it to the finals. The Gunrock bot earned an average score of 3.1 on a 5-point scale and achieved an average conversation length of 9 minutes, 59 seconds.

Amazon offered an additional $1 million prize for a 20-minute conversation, but no team cracked that barrier.

First-year computer science graduate student Chun-Yen (Arbit) Chen led the UC Davis team, with Zhou Yu, assistant professor of computer science, as faculty adviser. Other students on the team were: Ashwin Bhandare, Antara Bhowmick, Austin Chau, Shreenath Iyer, Kevin Jesse, Giritheja Sreenivasulu, Weiming Wen, Yi Mang Yang, Dian Yu and Mingyang Zhou.

Read more on the College of Engineering website.

Aggie basketball keeps it close with Hoosiers

The UC Davis’ men's basketball team faced off against a powerhouse Big Ten team last week, and led for the majority of the game.

For more than 32 minutes of Friday's (Nov. 23) nonconference game in Bloomington, Indiana, UC Davis knocked Indiana on its heels thanks to the Aggies’ trademark defense, ball movement, patience and discipline while on offense. And the crowd of 13,562 never had a chance to relax until a string of three consecutive Hoosier threes gave them a late lead in a game IU won by a 76-62 score.

Read more on the Athletics website and watch the video highlights above.

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