Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tech Giants Rush to Invest in Montreal Artificial Intelligence Research Lab

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tech Giants Rush to Invest in Montreal Artificial Intelligence Research Lab

Article excerpt

Google to invest in Montreal AI research

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MONTREAL - Artificial intelligence, once relegated to the realm of science fiction, is now found in everything from translation services to virtual assistants to video games.

And as companies race to develop self-driving cars and offer increasingly personalized online experiences, they're building on research that was largely pioneered by a group of Canadian researchers who are still attracting plenty of attention and investment dollars.

Montreal, in particular, has developed a concentration of expertise in the area of AI, largely thanks to the efforts of Universite de Montreal professor Yoshua Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA).

"(AI) will affect pretty much every economic sector; right now is just the tip of the iceberg," Bengio told The Canadian Press.

"One of the things we are going to see more of is how these technologies affect how we interact with computers."

As a result of its research, Bengio says the institute has attracted interest from "most of the major IT companies," some of which have also provided funding.

Now, tech giant Google is jumping in, investing $4.5 million over three years to support the institute's research, as well as opening an AI research group at its Montreal office.

This comes on the heels of the Canadian government announcing an investment of more than $200 million in three Montreal universities -- including Bengio's -- to create a learning hub to explore artificial intelligence and big data.

Shibl Mourad, the head of engineering for Google's Montreal office, says the company hopes to help turn the city into a "super-cluster" of AI knowledge that will attract corporate investors, burgeoning startups and researchers.

He said much of the credit goes to Bengio and his colleagues, whose research over the last decade has put the city ahead of its competitors. …

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