The increasingly popular Neural Information Processing Conference (NIPS) occurred in Long Beach, California earlier this month and conversational AI was one of the topics discussed at the AI-focused event, which attracted more than 7,500 attendees and sold out in 12 days, according to Bloomberg Technology.

Alborz Geramifard, a scientist within Amazon’s Alexa Machine Learning organization, was an organizer of one of the most popular workshops at the conference, Conversational AI: Today’s Practice and Tomorrow’s Potential. The workshop attracted speakers from academia and industry, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and included panel discussions, peer-reviewed papers and a poster session.

Scientists from academia and industry participate in a panel discussion at the recent NIPS Conference Conversational AI workshop. The panelists are seated in front of the audience, and their pictures are projected onto a screen.
Scientists from academia and industry participated in a panel discussion at the recent NIPS Conference Conversational AI workshop.

With the emergence of conversational AI systems such as Amazon’s Alexa, Geramifard said it’s more important than ever for academic and industry researchers to share thoughts and generate new ideas for future research.

Twenty-six papers were submitted for the workshop, and 16 were accepted, including eight by Amazon scientists. Ashwin Ram, senior manager, AI Science, Alexa Machine Learning and leader of the Alexa Prize competition, presented a talk on the science behind the Alexa Prize competition, which was well received and widely tweeted. A paper to which Ram contributed, Conversational AI: The Science Behind the Alexa Prize, was the basis for his talk.

Several Amazon scientists were members of the NIPS Conference organizing committee including Ralf Herbrich, managing director of Amazon’s development center in Berlin, who was a workshop chair. Amazon hosted additional events, including a luncheon for PhD and Master’s students, a dinner reception for senior academics and research leaders, a networking event in partnership with the Women in Machine Learning (WiML) workshop, and an “End of NIPS Party.”

Amazon speech scientists will be in Okinawa, Japan next week for the 2017 IEEE Automatic Speech Recognition and Understanding Workshop. Amazon is one of the event’s gold sponsors, and Amazon scientists will be presenting material from their paper accepted for the conference.