Hackathon winners visiting Facebook in Paris

Hackathon winners visiting Facebook in Paris

On January 29th to 30th the first AI Hackathon, organized by the innovation project eLIZA, took place in Berlin. More than 80 AI experts, programmers and hackers from all over the world came together to compete in one of six AI challenges.

One challenge on the topic of customer support, conceived in partnership with Facebook, challenged the participants to build a chatbot that simulates customer service interactions via Facebook Messenger app. By analyzing exemplary difficulties users and support staff are faced with every day, a project idea should be created to make the daily work of support staff easier.

The challenge was won by the team "Awesome Chatbot". The four team members Wilm Hanke, Daniel Bedarf, Elisa Yang Song and Yifan Xie had never met before, but due to their qualifications as chatbot developer, computer linguistics student, product owner and data scientist, they benefited from the broad expertise of the team. Unlike other groups who had spent a long time with the basics, Awesome Chatbot was able to present a quick solution with a good use case and corresponding concept to the jury and therefore was deservedly chosen as the winner of this challenge.

In addition to a prize money of 1,000 €, the benefit of this challenge included a one-day visit to the Facebook AI Research (FAIR)  team in Paris. The winners were invited to meet the local AI experts working for Facebook to take a look behind the scenes.

Winners of the Facebook Challenge: Team Awesome Chatbot

On March 16th 2018 the four lucky challenge winners finally set off for Paris by plane and train. At 9 am the next morning they met in the office building of Facebook, to start the day with a common breakfast in the canteen. Aside of getting to know each other and exchanging experiences, one of the main highlights was meeting with Antoine Bordes (Lead Research) and many other internal experts. They introduced themselves and their current work on Facebook's AI Research Team and were happy to answer everyones' questions.

After lunch they went to Station F, a disused freight station, which was converted into a startup garage about 6 months ago. It is now used by companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon Web Services, Vente-Privee and many others to offer startup programs to young entrepreneurs. The world's largest start-up incubator is currently home to around 1,000 young companies on 34,000 square meters, who want to attract the attention of financially strong sponsors and investors with innovative business ideas. In addition to offices in container form, Station F offers private areas for direct exchange with partners and a gigantic restaurant, which is also open to the public. In addition, about 100 apartments are to be built in the immediate vicinity of Station F in order to create suitable living space for the young founders.

Afterwards the visitors went back to the FAIR office, where Markus Brunner (Partner Engineer, Facebook) and Malte Goesche (Strategic Product Partnerships, Facebook) presented Facebook Messenger for one hour and answered the attendants’ questions.

Around 5 pm the Hackathon challenge winners were bid farewell by their hosts and had a short break in the hotel after an eventful day.  Finally, the evening ended with a dinner in a restaurant.

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