Amazon announced Thursday the launch of the Alexa Prize, an annual university competition dedicated to accelerating the field of conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

The goal of the inaugural competition is to build a “socialbot” on Alexa that will converse with people about popular topics and news events, said Amazon. The team with the highest-performing socialbot will win a $500,000 prize.

Additionally, a prize of $1 million will be awarded to the winning team’s university if their socialbot achieves the grand challenge of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes. Students will build their socialbots using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which tens of thousands of developers are already using to build new skills on Alexa.

This challenge will advance several areas of conversational AI including knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning, and dialog planning, said Aamzon.

“The Alexa Prize challenges students to build socialbots that can acquire knowledge and opinions from the web, and express them in context just as a human would in everyday conversations,” said Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist, Amazon Alexa.

“A socialbot that can converse coherently for 20 minutes is unprecedented and at least five times more advanced than state-of-the-art conversational AI. This challenge and the immediate feedback students will receive on their best ideas from millions of engaged Alexa customers will make what we previously thought impossible, possible,” he added.