Challenge will fund teams to build working prototypes and present at the 2020 NAB Show

PILOT, NAB‘s technology innovation initiative, announced the winners for the fourth annual PILOT Innovation Challenge. New this year, the program will provide support to the winners to develop an AI prototype for PILOT to enhance broadcasters’ audience engagement.

Individuals, teams, companies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations submitted concepts to address the challenge prompt, which is to “build an AI character that can have conversations with individual viewers, listeners or consumers.”

“We are pleased with the quality and innovation of this year’s submissions as well as the success of our new approach to the Innovation Challenge,” said PILOT Executive Director John Clark. “We look forward to working with the winners to develop their prototypes and ultimately provide broadcasters the ability to better serve their communities through AI.”

PILOT is allocating a total of $150,000 among the two winners. Winners will also receive relevant mentorship, ongoing feedback during development and a trip to the annual NAB Show, held April 18-22 in Las Vegas, to demonstrate their prototype.

This year’s winners are:

  • DeepTalk: A Conversational Agent for BroadcastersMichigan State University: NextGen Media Innovation Lab, College of Communication Arts and Sciences; i-PRoBe Lab, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; WKAR Public Media. DeepTalk is a conversational agent, like Siri, that can be trained through deep learning to deliver news in the voice of a local broadcaster.
  • JukebotUniversity of Minnesota: Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Jukebot is a chatbot API capable of answering simple questions and getting feedback from users for music stations.

PILOT would like to congratulate the Innovation Challenge finalists:

  • AI-driven interactive news on mobile devicesEmbody Digital.
  • Leveraging Conversational AI to Grow Audience, Deepen Engagement, and Shape Content StrategyUniversity of Georgia: Department of Statistics, Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication New Media Institute.
  • Kuralt.AI: 3D Broadcast AvatarUniversity of North Carolina: Reese News Lab, Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

The Innovation Challenge is one in a series of PILOT initiatives that each support a facet of the full innovation cycle, including the ideation, validation and incubation of media and technology-focused ideas. Additional programs include Futures Park, SPROCKIT and technology and internship grants.


PILOT is a coalition of innovators, educators and advocates dedicated to advancing broadcast technology and cultivating new media opportunities. PILOT propels broadcast television and radio into the future. It provides a platform for innovation, an engine for incubation, a venue for testing new technologies and a forum for broadcaster education. Learn more at

About NAB

The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America’s broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at