Xprize, a nonprofit organization aiming to spark projects that “solve societal grand challenges,” this week revealed the winners of three IBM Watson AI Xprize bonus milestone prizes. The announcement was made on Wednesday evening at Concordia University in Montreal during an event timed to coincide with the NeurIPS 2018 conference.

Aifred Health, a Montreal startup developing a system that uses data about mental health to help clinicians choose personalized patient treatment programs, took home first place and $35,000. The runner-up, with $20,000, was Philadelphia-based Choosito, a search engine tool powered by AI that automates digital content indexing, analysis, and search. Nectar Technologies, which uses analytics to help beekeepers keep tabs on colonies, received honorable mention and $5,000.

The finalists were selected after 10 presentations in front of a live audience and judging panel. They, along with 30 other teams chosen in November by an independent panel of expert judges, will advance to the next round in the IBM Watson AI Xprize competition, a four-year effort to identify sustainable AI-driven businesses for social good.

“What is it we can use AI for?” Amir Banifatemi, general manager of innovation and growth at Xprize, asked the audience assembled at a NeurIPS 2018 talk earlier this week. “[Entrants] are focusing on sustainable development goals … [and] using [a common] framework of thinking [to] solve these problems.”

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Xprize’s AI competition received 10,000 submissions from 147 teams in May 2016. The selection committee of 30 judges reduced that to 59 teams in December 2017, and then to 30 teams from eight countries — Australia, Canada, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States — in November 2018.

Three competitors will participate in the Grand Prize round on the TED2020 stage in front of a live in-person and online audience. The first prize for AI Xprize is $5 million — the grand prize and third place winners will receive $1 million and $500,000, respectively.

“This competition has made it evident that the teams’ efforts to apply AI for good not only started the trend, but created a global movement,” said Amir Banifatemi, general manager for innovation and growth at Xprize. “We’re proud to see humans rallying together to build responsible and useful AI that will solve some of the grandest challenges of our time.”

Xprize was founded in 1994 and has designed and launched 17 prizes in the domains of space, oceans, learning, health, energy, and the environment. To date, it has launched over $140 million in prize purses, including the $15 million Global Learning Xprize, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder Xprize, and the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy Xprize.

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