Montréal, world leader in Artificial Intelligence
The history of sci-fi storytelling foretells of a future filled with robot assistants and communicative machines playing an indispensable part in modern society. Be it The Jetsons’ loving maid Rosie or the omniscient computers controlling the on-board functions of the spaceships on Star Trek, what once seemed a fantasy light years away is rapidly becoming reality. And in this realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Montréal has become a world leader in the development of the most cutting-edge research and technology.
AI is everywhere, playing a role in almost every industry. But before we get to Montréal’s groundbreaking role in AI development, here’s a quick glossary of terms we all need to know.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): The developing capabilities of computers to achieve tasks previously requiring human involvement.
- Machine Learning: Using algorithms and variables, Machine Learning allows computers to learn from linear examples without explicit programming.
- Deep Learning: Using hierarchal web structures similar to the human brain, Deep Learning gives computers access to a non-linear style of learning, a concept initially discovered in part in Montréal.
A global hub of AI research and education
Montréal’s place at the forefront of North American university cities was commemorated this year when the city was named the best city in the world for students. Greater Montréal’s 11 universities house over 155,000 students, including the largest number of university researchers in Canada. And Canada supports their work: of the $900-million awarded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Montréal has received a whopping 24%. McGill University and Université de Montréal are ranked amongst the world’s best learning institutions, and the city is also home to the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO) responsible for leaps and bounds in the study of AI and Big Data, itself the recipient of $93.5-million from the First Research fund in 2016.
UdeM’s MILA (the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms) composes the largest and most renowned group of deep learning researchers in the world. MILA’s director Yoshua Bengio is a pioneer in the study of Deep Learning, and his research has been cited over 4,000 times in international studies. More than 250 doctoral students and researchers in Montréal make up the world’s largest academic concentration, developing a broad range of AI-related topics from language processing, reinforcement learning and computer vision.
But the movement doesn’t stop there. Several grassroots organizations including MTL Data, MTL Machine Learning and Data Driven MTL all operate in the city, alongside 125 Meetup groups with over 45,000 members connected to startups and independent initiatives.
Home to heavy hitters in AI development
The world’s heaviest hitters in cutting-edge technologies have also flocked to Montréal, both furthering existing operations and founding their own.
- Facebook’s FAIR research lab, headed by McGill’s noted computer researcher Joëlle Pineau, has launched this autumn with aims of filling 30 research positions within the upcoming year.
- Microsoft’s investment in Element AI, a Montréal-based incubator with $135-million in funding (who this week announced former IBM CIO Linda Bernardi’s addition to the team) and their purchase of deep learning startup Maluuba demonstrate a dedication to the city’s development as a centre-point in AI study, development and business. The technology giant has also donated $7.5-million to further AI research at UdeM and McGill.
- Google has both invested heavily in the city’s research initiatives (including a donation to MILA of $4.5-million) and launched its own Google Brain AI research lab in Montréal headed by deep learning specialist Hugo Larochelle.
- IBM has announced plans to open its own AI-development lab in Montréal, working directly with MILA.
- Samsung’s AI lab at UdeM includes direct links with Seoul National University strengthening the international flow of information and development.
- France’s industrial behemoth Thales has announced plans to open an AI research hub in conjunction with MILA in early 2018, paired with its Paris-based lab.
A meeting point for AI experts
Strengthening Montréal’s ties to the international AI-sector, the city is also host to two major convention events bringing the world’s leaders in research and development to the Palais de congrès de Montréal.
Focused on the ethical development of AI, the Forum on the Socially Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence gathered specialists from around the world this past November 2-3 and included the initial drafting of the Montréal Declaration on the Ethical Development of AI.
The International joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence Organization (IJCAI) has also named Montréal the host city for it’s 2021 convention, following successful events in Melbourne, Beijing, New York and Barcelona. More than 3,000 experts in the fields of AI, machine learning, and deep learning will gather in the Palais de congrès to meet and exchange in what’s sure to be a remarkable event.