• 11-11-2020

  • 3 min read

  • Anna Prist

Hacking Conversational AI at the Junction 2020 Connected Hackathon

Just AI’s MAKE CONVERSATIONAL AI WORK challenge held as part of the Junction Hackathon in 2020

   

On 6-8 November, over 2000 hackers gathered to work on 11 different challenges during the huge annual hackathon in Europe – Junction 2020 Connected. Participants from 299 cities of 54 countries teamed up to build working solutions and fight for the main prize of the Junction hackathon — €10,000.

 

This time hackathon organizers reckoned with the Coronavirus safety precautions, for this reason besides the traditional offline hubs all over the world, hackers could participate online. So nothing disturbed the casual atmosphere of this much-awaited event.

 

The hackathon was divided into 11 challenges based on different themes. Starting with the Children Pain Distraction challenge from Helsinki University Hospital, where hackers had to use virtual reality to help the little ones to cope with pain, disabilities, or anxiety during medical procedures. And ending with the MAKE CONVERSATIONAL AI WORK challenge from Just AI where hackers had to build a voice-first solution that could bring tangible benefits to business or society (or both).

 

A total of 207 projects were submitted, 26 of them were submitted for the Just AI challenge, making it one of the top three Junction challenges. Our participants had to use the Kotlin-based JAICF framework to build up conversational UX. They could either add voice navigation to a mobile app, create a smart bot for a website, or build a useful skill for Alexa or Google Assistant. There were no restrictions. We chose JAICF because it’s an open-source and user-friendly project, which makes it easy to build up a working solution from scratch even for a freshman.

 

‘Just AI had provided useful templates and examples that we were able to use as a base for our project. Putting all the pieces together and understanding different interfaces was challenging at first. But, when we got Google Assistant to chat with us with the help of JAICF, we already felt like winners.’

-Tiina Karhukivi, software developer, hackathon participant

 

Summarizing the results, retail-focused Conversational AI solutions made 30% of all projects presented at our challenge. Most of them offered virtual assistance of some sort: an AI-powered grocery shopping assistant, a virtual consultant for tech retailers, a no-contact AI cashier, a time-saving shopping companion, a grocery-shopping assistant with voice search capabilities, and dedicated helpers for book, clothes, and utility stores — they all give a glimpse of touchless and AI-enabled retail.

 

The winner project whose team got the main challenge prize of €1,500 is Nutreat, an AI-powered grocery shopping assistant meant to “redefine the grocery shopping experience with personalized and transparent food recommendations.” Nutreat comprises Smart Self-Scanner that allows adding products to the shopping cart using the integrated barcode scanner, provides real-time shopping cart statistics, and enables easy checkout. The AI-based Shopping Assistant is context-aware and features a fluent conversational interface. Personalized Recommendations advice on alternative products based on personal diet, rank products based on health, sustainability, budget. Congratulations to the amazing team: Anton Danneels, Matthias De Lange, Arne Feys, Thomas Verelst, Miel Verkerken.

 

The 1st and 2nd runner ups are Techie – the AI assistant for choosing the right product for you (Antti Vainikka, Miika Sundström); and Sighty – a personal tour guide (Dan Plămădeală, Ion Babalau, Alina Boshchenko).

 

Among the other projects, we wish to commend Anthrofy for the idea of a talking vacuum cleaner. ShopLyft, who’ve built a no-contact shopping assistant, because it’s a socially conscious innovation project, which is crucially important in the Conversational AI area. And a team that built a Castle Attack Game, because voice games are really cool and inspiring.

 

The main prize of the Junction hackathon of €10,000 was taken by a team of Russian hackers with their Saavi — Healthy Finance project. It’s a mobile solution for banks that helps their customers to understand the level of their financial health by analyzing spendings and subscriptions with a help of machine learning — and got an entertaining experience of interaction with personal finance in AR. 

 

We congratulate winners and all participants of the Junction hackathon. It was an amazing event full of charge and emotions, motivating to build exciting, new, cutting-edge solutions. We hope the Junction hackathon and Make Conversational AI Work challenge encouraged many developers to dive into voice interfaces. Conversational AI is the thing of the future, let’s build it together!

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