IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Guidelines

These are the original Guidelines when the prize was launched in 2016 and indicate the initial direction of the prize. As the prize progressed - a set of updated Rules and Regulations were provided annually to the advancing teams.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is 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.


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


Solutions are evaluated based on their technological advancement, real-world impact, their potential importance/benefit to humanity, and the potential of the AI solution to meaningfully address the grand challenge. Solutions are evaluated against their potential exponential impact or shift and scalability. In particular, teams will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Proficiency: The team has demonstrated a significant technical maturity for their solution and have achieved a significant technical efficacy in their solution.

Efficacy: The solution presented by the team is robust to the real world, and the presented evidence allows for a complete evaluation of the solution's efficacy in a real world context.

Novelty in Problem: The technology is novel within the chosen problem area when compared to current technology and ongoing research.

Practicality: The team has demonstrated evidence that the solution meets the practical prerequisites to produce positive real-world impact.

Impact with Problem Area: The team has established with high confidence that the technology will likely lead to significant impacts on their chosen problem area once at scale.

Problem Significance: The team has chosen a very large grand challenge with significant global impact to tackle.

Ethics: The team has adequately evaluated the technology for ethical issues and has addressed any potential negative outcomes or biases present in their technology or solution.


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.


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.


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.