Teams will use their best available resources, along with the crowdsourced expertise of the professional AI community, to develop a comprehensive grand challenge competition plan. Each team will then demonstrate progress toward and achievement of that plan over the course of a four-year competition culminating in a Grand Prize Competition on the TED 2020 stage in front of a live in-person/online audience. A panel of expert judges and the onsite/online audience will crown a Grand Prize Winner and determine two runners up.

XPRIZE will solicit crowdsourced expert reviewers from the professional AI community to discuss the Application Summaries in detail with the teams and XPRIZE. This community of reviewers will be a resource to teams as they develop their applications into complete plans.


The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition will set an open challenge in AI. Rather than set a single, universal goal for all teams, this competition will invite teams of technologists in AI to each create their own goal: an application of AI to a grand challenge with a novel outcome.


Solutions will be evaluated based on their technological advancement, creativity and their potential importance/benefit to humanity and the potential of the AI solution to meaningfully address the grand challenge. Solutions will be evaluated against their potential exponential impact or shift and scalability. Acceptance to continue in the competition will be based on the completeness of the competition plan the team submits, the audaciousness and utility of the proposed solution, and the comprehensiveness of the test suite.

Teams will be measured by the standards they themselves set with the help of their reviewers. Competition plans must include:

  • Grand Challenge Goal and Impact – This is the grand challenge that the teams are choosing to address with their AI solution and how they intend to address it. The teams must describe the context of the problem and how solving the problem with AI is timely and important. The goal will be evaluated by the judging committee to ascertain its importance/benefit to humanity and the potential of the AI solution to meaningfully address the grand challenge.
  • Proposed Solution – Each plan will include a detailed explanation of the approach the team will use to achieve its proposed goal. Teams may include explanations of technological approaches and development pathways. Solutions that achieve an exponential impact, shift, or scalability will be weighted higher than those that result in a linear increase.
  • AI Technologies – Plans must include a detailed explanation of the team’s approach to AI. What functions does the technology perform? What kind of technology are they employing? How will they validate and test their technology as well as evaluate success?
  • Evaluation Goals / Test Suites – Teams must propose their own systems for testing and assessing the quality of their AI technologies and advancements.
  • Annual Progress Plan – Competition plans must include the team’s proposed progress plan, showing their expected annual progress toward their goal.
  • AI-Human Collaboration – Teams must explain how their proposed AI tool works with humans to achieve the desired results and address the grand challenge.


XPRIZE believes that solutions can come from anyone, anywhere. Scientists, engineers, academics, entrepreneurs, and other innovators with new ideas from all over the world are invited to form a team and register to compete. In order to participate, a team may need to recruit additional experts and can add new members at any time throughout the competition. Competing teams will own the Intellectual Property of their submissions.

Note: The competition is void in those countries where prohibited or restricted by law. XPRIZE reserves the right to limit, or restrict upon notice, participation in the competition to any person or entity at any time for any reason. Teams may withdraw as set forth in the Competitor Agreement.


To compete in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE you must be a fully registered team. To complete your registration, you must:

  1. Create a Team profile
  2. Sign the Competitor’s Agreement
  3.  Pay the registration fee*

*Registration fees are required as a simple qualifier to ensure competitors will be able to obtain the appropriate resources to fully compete in the competition. All fees collected are used to support teams and competition operational costs such as testing, team focused events, media and prize impact development.


Teams will be responsible for funding their own technology development costs.


To ensure that the competition is fair to competing teams, XPRIZE will appoint the following two independent entities:

Advisory Boards

XPRIZE will form panels of relevant Advisors to serve on Advisory Boards for the Competition. These Boards will remain in place throughout the Competition to advise XPRIZE regarding all aspects of the design and implementation of the Competition. The duties and responsibilities of the Advisory Board may include assisting with the establishment of qualifications for prospective Judges, recommending members of the Judging Panel, and providing input related to testing protocols and judging criteria.

Judging Panel

XPRIZE will recruit judges, chosen by the Advisory Board. XPRIZE will seek to ensure that the expertise of the judging panel is diverse enough to fairly evaluate the various technologies and approaches that the teams may develop during the competition. The duties and responsibilities of the Judging Panel will include, but not be limited to evaluating teams’ compliance with the Competitor Agreement, these Guidelines, and the Rules and Regulations for the purposes of the Competition, and the awarding of points and selection of teams and entries that will proceed to each subsequent phase of the Competition.


The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition will take place over the course of four (4) rounds ending at the TED 2020 conference:

  • On September 1 of 2017 and 2018, teams will submit a report and testing results. Any team interested in competing for that year’s Milestone Awards by doing public demonstrations at IBM World of Watson in October will also submit a Milestone Application describing their demo along with their progress report.
  • In October, the Judging Panel will announce up to 10 teams selected to publicly demonstrate their work at IBM World of Watson.
  • A 1st and 2nd place Milestone Award will be given by the Judging Panel to the best of those demonstrations at IBM World of Watson. At each IBM World of Watson the Judging Panel will also announce which teams are eliminated from competition in that round.
  • On January 15 the Judging Panel will announce which teams will progress to the next round.

Round 3 & 4 specifics:

  • For Round 3 in 2019 the Judging Panel will select 10 Semifinalists to compete in public at IBM World of Watson (October 2019), and following a last round of review the three Finalists will be chosen on January 15, 2020 to compete in Round 4 at TED 2020.
  • Since all three teams will receive cash awards at that TED event, no Milestone Prizes will be given in Round 3.


As AI is such a rapidly advancing field, substantial innovations are likely to occur during the course of the competition. Two Wild Card rounds will permit new teams with groundbreaking ideas to enter the competition. Wild Card teams will go through the same registration, expert-sourced support and review, and application process as original entrants on a calendar that begins in 2017 or 2018. Unlike original entrants, however, it is expected that very few – if any – Wild Card teams will be accepted. They must not only show a complete competition plan but also show that their plan incorporates radical new advances that were not available at the start of the competition. See the Competition Guidelines for specific deadlines and registration fees pertaining to wildcard entries.


  • Competition Guidelines [PDF]: Describes the requirements and parameters of the competition and is binding on teams as referenced in, and as part of, the Competitor Agreement.
  • Competitor Agreement: Legally binding contract that contains the requirements of the competition and is available on the competition registration portal. All competing teams must sign this in order to compete.