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A Robot Worthy of a Standing Ovation? There's an X Prize for That

What if artificial intelligence were so advanced it could deliver a TED talk more compelling than some of the smartest humans?
Image: the A.I. Xprize presented by TED competition
A.I. Xprize presented by TEDA.I. Xprize presented by TED

Many a human genius has taken the stage at TED, the annual big-idea-sharing conference for techies and innovators, and wowed audiences with thought-provoking talks. Now what if a robot were able to do the same, and earn a standing ovation for its effort?

Farfetched, you say? Not for the folks at X Prize, which on Thursday announced it was partnering with TED to create a competition “for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) so advanced that it could deliver a compelling TED Talk with no human involvement.”

A.I. Xprize presented by TEDA.I. Xprize presented by TED

“Advances in machine learning and AI have made extraordinary progress over the past decade, but we’ve barely scratched the surface,” Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of X Prize, said in a statement. “This global competition could help spur its development across a myriad of areas — including biological research, exploration, education, health care, and fields we have not yet even imagined.”

There aren’t any hard-set rules yet for the “A.I. Xprize presented by TED” competition. The organizers want the public to help shape the competition’s format by answering questions like:

“How should the TED Talk topic be chosen? How long should the talk be? How should the competition be judged? Will the AI be a physical robot that walks, or rolls, on stage to present or will it be a disembodied voice?”

The winner would be judged on the scale of audience applause. A standing O, of course, would trump all else.

As to what the prize will actually be, organizers want the public's input on that, too.

"Should it be $1 million? $10 million? Is the TED stage and attention prize enough? You tell us!" an X Prize spokesman told NBC News.