Center for Continuous Intelligence

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Enters Final Stage of Competition


Three finalists will be announced for the competition that provides a $3 million Grand Prize, $1 million 2nd place prize, and $500k 3rd place prize.

Next month, three organizations will be selected as finalists in the $5 million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. The program, which started in June 2016, is a global competition challenging teams to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to tackle the world’s grand challenges.

The XPRIZE program’s goal is to “accelerate the adoption of AI technologies and spark creative, innovative, and audacious demonstrations of the technology that are truly scalable to solve societal grand challenges.” Rather than set a single, universal goal for all teams, this competition invites teams of technologists in AI to each create their own goal: an application of AI to a grand challenge with a novel solution.

See also: Continuous Intelligence in Action: Lessons from 3 Use Cases

At the recent AI Summit in New York, Devin Krotman, director of the IBM Watson XPRIZE, led a panel discussion on “The Future of AI for Good” with several of the competition’s entrants. Scheduled to appear with Krotman were representatives from Alfred Health, Element Inc., and Georgia Institute of Technology. (Due to a morning snowstorm and the impact of the flu season, not all participants made it to the stage that day.)

The projects undertaken by these participants include:

  • Alfred Health is developing a system that uses high-quality data about mental health to help physicians work with their patients to choose personalized treatments for depression
  • Element Inc. is working to solve the challenge of biometric recognition for children under-five, with the aim to create the first platform capable of biometrically following a person from birth through old age.
  • Georgia Tech students and faculty are working on a project called DiLAB Team emPRIZE, which aims to develop virtual tutors for online education that will offer learning assistance through personalized tutoring, answering questions, and providing feedback to students

A Race to the Finish

Throughout the competition, XPRIZE called attention to the work of some of the entrants, recognizing the work they were doing and emphasizing the truly international flavor of the program. Some of the highlighted entrants over the years included:

  • Amiko AI (Milan, Italy; London, United Kingdom, which is developing a system that enables real-time monitoring of medication use and patient health to assist healthcare professionals and empower asthma patients to achieve better outcomes.
  • Behaivior (Pittsburgh, PA), which is developing a platform which will combine data from wearables and smartphones into an early warning system to predict and prevent addiction relapses and overdoses, with an initial focus on opioids.
  • Brown HCRI (Providence, RI), which is developing a three-phase interdisciplinary research program to identify human social and moral norms and implement them in robots.
  • DataKind (New York, NY), which is developing AI models that use high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor crops for disease in support of poverty alleviation.
  • emPrize (Atlanta, GA), which is developing virtual tutors for online education that will offer learning assistance through personalized tutoring, answering questions, and providing feedback to students.
  • EruditeAI (Montreal, Canada), which is developing a free peer-to-peer math tutoring platform where a matchmaking AI pairs students in need of math help with students who have demonstrated proficiency in a specific mathematical concept.
  • (Oslo, Norway), which is semi-automating the systematic mapping of scientific papers and ultimately building an “AI researcher” doing literature-based discovery.
  • WikiNet (Quebec, Canada), which is developing a system that learns from past environmental cleanup efforts to provide automated expert recommendations for treating contaminated sites worldwide.

Since its start, the competition has included several milestones. In December 2017, the group announced that 59 teams representing 14 countries had advanced in the competition. In November 2018, XPRIZE  announced the top 30 teams. Given the rapid pace of change in AI technology and use case demands, the competition included two wildcard rounds. The rounds ensure that new AI applications could be included in the competition. 

In February, three finalists will be announced to participate in the Grand Prize competition. That competition will be on the TED2020 stage in front of a live in-person and online audience. A $3 million Grand Prize, $1 million Second Place prize, and $500k Third Place prize will be awarded to the teams that receive the top scores, with the final winner determined based on the results of the live in-person and online audience voting during TED2020. 

Salvatore Salamone

About Salvatore Salamone

Salvatore Salamone is a physicist by training who has been writing about science and information technology for more than 30 years. During that time, he has been a senior or executive editor at many industry-leading publications including High Technology, Network World, Byte Magazine, Data Communications, LAN Times, InternetWeek, Bio-IT World, and Lightwave, The Journal of Fiber Optics. He also is the author of three business technology books.

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