Amazon To Boost Digital Skills By Funding Alexa AI Use In Universities

skills gap

Google is also looking at nurturing digital skills with Coursera partnership

Amazon is aiming to help students learn how to build capabilities into its voice-controlled assistant Alexa, in a bid to nurture technology talent and inspiration around artificial intelligence (AI) use.

Dubbed the Alexa Fund Fellows, the year-long programme will see Amazon working with university professors, researchers and students to tackle a variety of complex technology challenges, processing spoken conversation and text to speech conversion through the use of Alexa.

Amazon Alexa Fund Fellows

amazon-alexaParticipating universities will receive access to Alexa devices and mentoring from a member of the Alexa Science team in order to develop a undergraduate or graduate curriculum around AI-related disciplines, such as natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition.

Different participating universities, which currently consist of Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, the University of Southern California and Canada’s University of Waterloo, will be applying the fund in different fashions, from teaching the implementation of dialogue systems to supporting a doctoral student to provide technical advice to master’s degree students.

The fund appears to be limited to US universities for the time being.

While the fund, which if for an undisclosed amount, will assist the development of digital skills for university students, it also acts as a way for the e-commerce giant to sniff out skilled future engineers and programmers for it to recruit once they graduate.

It will also have the benefit of getting potential future developers involved in working with its AI technology, and thus paves the way for more contributors to build out the Alexa ecosystem.

“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,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at University of Waterloo.

“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.”

Google supports digital skills

googleAs another major tech company and rival to Amazon in the cloud and AI space, Google is also looking at nurturing digital skills.  

The search giant has joined force with online learning firm Coursera to help train people to become experts in cloud computing by launching an online course dubbed Data Engineering on Google Cloud Specialization.

The course will be comprised of four parts, with the first being based around big data and machine learning, conveniently called Big Data and Machine Learning, designed to teach the like of data analysts and IT decision makers the tenements of data cleaning, transforming and validation amongst other practices.

Other partnership will offer a collection of foundational, intermediate and advanced online courses on topics such as infrastructure and application development.

“Offering these courses on Coursera makes it highly convenient for current and aspiring IT professionals, data engineers, and anyone else to access high-quality cloud training on the latest tools and technologies.

“Through the Coursera platform, learners have the flexibility to take courses on their own schedules both on their computers and on a mobile app,” explained Leah Belsky, vice president of global business development at Coursera.

The courses will benefit Google by encouraging IT and data workers to become au fait with the Google Cloud Platform, while also helping develop digital skills, which the IT industry considers there to be a shortage of in the UK.

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