Could a Robot Deliver Motivational Speeches?

The prizewinner will develop artificial intelligence that can deliver a compelling speech with no humans involved. (Image credit: XPRIZE/TED)

Imagine a day when a form of artificial intelligence could deliver a speech as compelling as one given by a human.

A nonprofit organization called XPRIZE, which designs competitions to encourage the development of innovative technology for the benefit of humanity, announced it will award a prize to anyone who can develop an artificial intelligence, or "AI," that could give an inspiring talk at the TED (Technology, Education, Design) conference without any human assistance.

"Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have made extraordinary progress over the past decade, but we've barely scratched the surface," Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of XPRIZE, said in a statement. Diamandis and Chris Anderson, curator of TED, announced the prize Thursday (March 20) at the TED2014 Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The prize organizers are requesting input from the public about the talk's topic and length, whether the AI should be a physical robot or a disembodied voice, how the competition should be judged and whether the prize should be awarded to the first team to meet certain criteria or as part of an annual competition. More information is available on the prize's website.

"We're entering a future in which humans and machines must learn new ways to work with each other," Anderson said in a statement. "I predict that within a few years, we'll be blown away by what artificial intelligences can do." [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

XPRIZE, founded in 1995, organizes high-profile prizes in five areas: learning, exploration, energy and environment, global development, and life sciences.

Current prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE for safely landing a private spacecraft on the moon, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE for portable health care sensing, and the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE to understand ocean acidification.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.