Now that Amazon Web Services has made public its Amazon Lex technology, which makes Alexa fetch another case of LaCroix from Amazon Prime at your command, it’s issuing a challenge: build the next great chatbot.
AWS is dangling cash prizes, credits for AWS service, and tickets to Re:Invent for indie developers and small companies that use Amazon Lex and its Amazon Lambda serverless product to build a voice or text chatbot run through Slack, Facebook Messenger, or Twillio’s messaging products. Developers have until July to submit their applications, which will be judged on a combination of utility, quality, and implementation, according to an AWS blog post. Amazon announced a similar contest for university students last year.
Chatbots are in the running for the coveted Most Hyped Technology award over the last couple of years, with some success in voice-activated products like Alexa and Google Home, but with a lot of misses, like Facebook M and those automated customer service chatbots that have around six canned responses. The promise is simple and potentially huge: the shift to mobile computing means voice commands could be the most efficient way of communicating with a computer. However, wrestling with a bad chatbot is a frustrating user experience, easily abandoned if you can find the answer or place the request with a few clicks.
It’s quite possible, however, that opening up sophisticated chatbot technology to masses of developers is exactly what is needed to jump-start the development of truly useful chatbots. That’s the basic idea behind opening up any platform technology; the platform company can’t envision or execute everything, and the developer can’t build the underlying platform technology on their own.
AWS will announce the winners in August. More details, including how to sign up for the challenge, are available here.