The Alexa Prize program has empowered numerous university students to explore, experiment, and showcase their talents in building conversational agents through challenges like the SocialBot Grand Challenge and the TaskBot Challenge. As conversational agents increasingly appear in multimodal and embodied contexts, it is important to explore the affordances of conversational interaction augmented with computer vision and physical embodiment. This paper describes the SimBot Challenge, a new challenge in which university teams compete to build robot assistants that complete tasks in a simulated physical environment. This paper provides an overview of the SimBot Challenge, which included both online and offline challenge phases. We describe the infrastructure and support provided to the teams including Alexa Arena, the simulated environment, and the ML toolkit provided to teams to accelerate their building of vision and language models. We summarize the approaches the participating teams took to overcome research challenges and extract key lessons learned. Finally, we provide analysis of the performance of the competing SimBots during the competition.
We introduce Alexa Arena, a user-centric simulation platform for Embodied AI (EAI) research. Alexa Arena provides a variety of multi-room layouts and interactable objects, for the creation of human-robot interaction (HRI) missions. With user-friendly graphics and control mechanisms, Alexa Arena supports the development of gamified robotic tasks readily accessible to general human users, thus opening a new venue for high-efficiency HRI data collection and EAI system evaluation. Along with the platform, we introduce a dialog-enabled instruction-following benchmark and provide baseline results for it. We make Alexa Arena publicly available to facilitate research in building generalizable and assistive embodied agents.
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.