In a bid to lead the voice-tech ecosystem, Amazon recently announced the creation of ‘Alexa Fund Fellowship’. This programme will support researchers and university students working towards voice technology with monetary aids. The said initiative will also assist the development of univ-curriculum in fields like text-to-speech, conversational artificial intelligence, automatic speech recognition, and natural language understanding.
Amazon has already listed the names of colleges to be incorporated within the first batch of the programme. University of Waterloo, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of Southern California (USC) are among the first few to have been selected by the e-commerce giant. Citing the basis for selection, Amazon VP Douglas Booms wrote in a blog post,
The initial cohort of universities was selected in part for the quality of their technology transfer and entrepreneurship programs, and we’re excited to work with them to support Alexa Fund Fellows interested in commercializing their work.
With the fresh initiative, Amazon yearns to unlock the potential and innovation voice assistance technology carries. The fund fellows will further be provided access to Alexa devices, and mentoring from an Alexa Science team members. The programme stretches for a year and culminates in a demo day. These students will be given an opportunity to show off their hard work to fellow peers, university faculty and members of the Alexa team at the demo day.
The funding to accelerate the efforts of students will be provided through the $100 million Alexa Fund, created in June 2015. The fund was established to stimulate voice technology innovations and presently backs up the Alexa Accelerator initiative.
While courses at Johns Hopkins and USC will begin in Fall of 2017, the other two universities have already chosen fellows and begun offering classes for engineering students. Students at Carnegie Mellon University can opt for Dialog Systems course. The course will be headed by Alexa Fund Fellow, Ran Zhao who will impart knowledge regarding implementation of a complete spoken language system.
While at Johns Hopkins, the Alexa Fund Fellowship will support a doctoral student; Alexa will be integrated into the academic and innovation ecosystem at USC. Various courses such as Fundamentals of Computational Intelligence have also been initiated at the University of Waterloo which will be supported by Alexa Fund Fellow Chahid Ouali.
Commenting on the benefits of Amazon Fund Fellowship, Pearl Sullivan, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at University of Waterloo said,
Voice computing is no longer science fiction. By understanding the principles behind the interaction between computers and humans, our students can develop new applications and start-up ventures.
With our intense focus on experiential learning and early innovation, this program with Amazon will enable our engineering faculty to use Alexa as a teaching tool for artificial intelligence topics on voice recognition and speech synthesis.