One of the largest companies in the world has announced an expansion in their voice technology network, with Canada on the receiving end.
Amazon has unveiled 14 new universities that will be added to their Alexa Fund Fellowship, up from just four last year. This brings the total to 18. The University of Waterloo is one of the new universities to be selected, the only Canadian school on the list, and it will be home to the new Alexa Graduate Fellowship.
The Amazon Alexa Fellowship is designed to help fuel the future of conversational AI research, education, and entrepreneurship. The Graduate offering, available for 2018-2019 at the University of Waterloo, will support PhD and post-doctoral students specializing in conversational AI. The fellowship covers tuition and offers a competitive stipend as well as mentoring from an Alexa scientist. Amazon also offers Alexa devices to participating universities to better leverage the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Services.
“Voice is the most natural, convenient interface and we believe it can change the way humans interact with technology,” a blog post detailing the announcement reads. “To achieve this reality, we need to solve many hard conversational AI challenges, ranging from automatic speech recognition to natural language understanding to text-to-speech. We must also help entrepreneurs build voice interfaces into their technologies. We knew we’d need top engineers and scientists at Amazon working to solve these problems. But we also knew we’d need to make it easier and more accessible for smart people outside of the company to get involved with conversational AI.”
Other new universities selected to be apart of the expanded fellowship program include Carnegie Mellon, MIT, the University of Cambridge and Johns Hopkins. Amazon also announced an Alexa Innovation Fellowship to empower entrepreneur centres at universities to better support student-run startups that use voice-recognition technology.
“It’s day 1 for voice and we’re just scratching the surface of how voice interfaces will change how we interact with technology,” the Amazon Graduate Fellowship site reads. “Collaborating with universities continues to be essential to advance the state-of-the-art of conversational AI.”
Amazon has been making a lot of moves in Canada over the past year. Aside from shortlisting Toronto as a potential location for their HQ2, the e-commerce behemoth also donated $525,000 to Canada Learning Code and recently announced plans for a massive new 3,000 person tech hub in Vancouver.