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Facebook to Open Artificial Intelligence Center in Montreal


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Facebook to Open Artificial Intelligence Center in Montreal

Facebook Inc. plans to announce the opening of a new artificial intelligence center in Montreal on Friday, marking the latest move by a U.S. firm to tap into Canada’s expertise in the technology, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The move will allow the social networking giant to tap into a hotbed of AI talent in and around the city.

Joelle Pineau, the co-director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, and the incoming president of the International Machine Learning Society, will lead the lab, according to a report from The Globe and Mail. She’ll be joined by Pascal Vincent, an associate professor at the University of Montreal.

Cutting edge AI talent is hard to come by, and Montreal is home to researchers who are working on some of the latest techniques in deep learning. The city is home to the Montreal Institute of Learning Algorithms (MILA), a machine learning lab headed by Yoshua Bengio, one of the pioneers in the field.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is slated to speak tomorrow morning at an event in Montreal hosted by Facebook AI Research, according to an itinerary posted by his press office today. The topic of those remarks as well as the purpose of the event are both unclear.

Facebook is far from the only tech giant opening up shop in Montreal. Google already has an office in the city focused on machine learning, and Microsoft recently acquired a Montreal-based startup that specializes in deep learning.

Element AI, which raised a whopping $102 million earlier this year to build a business that helps other organizations implement and deploy artificial intelligence, is headquartered in the city and has garnered investment from Microsoft Ventures, Intel Capital and others.

Facebook already has a presence in Montreal, with a sales office that was created to work with Quebec residents. The company has two other offices in Canada, with one in Toronto and one in Vancouver.


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Facebook opens an A.I. research outpost in Canada

  • Facebook's fourth artificial intelligence research lab is located in Montreal.
  • The company has tapped McGill University professor Joelle Pineau to lead the new lab.

Published 35 Mins AgoCNBC.com

Facebook on Thursday plans to announce its fourth artificial intelligence research lab, this one in the Canadian city of Montreal. The move comes after Alphabet and Microsoft have invested in the local AI research scene.

To lead the lab Facebook has tapped Joelle Pineau, an associate professor of Montreal's McGill University whose academic papers on conversational agents and other topics through the years have been frequently cited. Pineau will retain her academic position while leading the Facebook lab, which should employ 10 people by the end of this month.


"I love that job, but there comes a time when you're up for a new challenge and finding out about a new way of doing research, Pineau said during a briefing on the news. "Nowadays, so much machine learning research is happening in industry."

In addition to opening the lab, Facebook has committed about $5.75 million to support AI research at McGill, the University of Montreal, the Montreal Institute of Learning Algorithms and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

The move comes a week after IBM said it would spend $240 million on a new AI lab in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Facebook uses AI in several ways, including figuring out which posts to show users in the flagship app and filtering out spam in the Messenger chat app. The company is actively developing new ways to implement AI, including understanding speech commands from people using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. 

"Our goal with artificial intelligence is to build systems that are better than people at perception -- seeing, hearing, language and so on," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the company's F8 developer conference earlier this year.

As is the case with researchers working at Facebook's AI labs in Menlo Park, New York and Paris, researchers at the Montreal lab will be able to openly talk about their work and collaborate with people at other institutions. Pineau said that's one thing that attracted her to Facebook.


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1 hour ago, LindbergMTL said:

Je viens de Tweeter: @Facebook to Open #ArtificialIntelligence Center in Montreal @jeffbezos are you listening?


Pretty good chance for amazon to implant an AI laboratory in Montreal since there are using it for AWS (amazon web service) and there is an AWS center in Montreal. 



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Une idée que je lance comme ça: pourquoi ne pas combiner deux des grandes forces de Montréal en créant un Festival de l'Intelligence Artificielle de Montréal? Ça pourrait se faire en partenariat avec les campus universitaires et les entreprises impliquées dans le milieu. Il me semble que ça contribuerait à renforcer l'idée de Montréal comme capitale mondiale en IA.

Je n'ai rien d'autre que cette idée à offrir pour l'instant... mais il me semble qu'elle a du potentiel. Qu'en pensez-vous?


Edited by Le Philosophe
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MONTRÉAL, Sept. 15, 2017 /CNW/ - From smartphone applications that can understand human speech to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way that people interact with each other and their environment. AI and deep learning help create jobs, improve our quality of life, and generate new opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today took part in Facebook's announcement that they will open a new AI lab in Montréal – the company's first intelligence lab in Canada, and only its second outside of the United States. By next year, the lab is expected to employ a team of twenty researchers headed by McGill University's Dr. Joelle Pineau, a leading AI researcher.

The researchers will develop new ways of teaching machines the complex relationship between actions and results, known as reinforcement learning. They will also develop dialog systems for machines and computers that enable them to speak with users in a natural and easily understandable way.

This new lab will help grow a stronger Canadian technology ecosystem. It will create good jobs and help Canada continue to retain and recruit high quality talent in this important area of research and economic growth. It will mean a stronger economy for our country, as professionals and students choose to stay here rather than look abroad for jobs and opportunities in the technology sector.


"When tech giants like Facebook decide to invest in our cities, that is not only a testament to the world-class talent of our people, but also to Canada's enormous potential as an innovation and tech hub. Facebook's new lab in Montréal will underline Canada's status as a global AI powerhouse, and a leader in the economy of the future — and encourage other leading tech companies to set up shop here and create good, middle class jobs for Canadians."
— Rt. Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Quick Facts

  • Montréal is a natural fit for this new lab, as many of the early AI pioneers come from the city and several important advancements have been made here.
  • In addition to this new lab, Facebook will invest $7 million in the broader Montréal-based AI community through partnerships with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.
  • Canada is a world leader when it comes to investing in research at post-secondary institutions, ranking first among G7 nations and eighth among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.
  • In order to help new, innovative initiatives in Canada, Budget 2017 included an Innovation and Skills Plan to make it easier for Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators to turn their ideas into thriving businesses.
  • To retain and attract top academic talent, and to increase the number of post-graduate trainees and researchers studying artificial intelligence and deep learning, Budget 2017 also proposed $125 million to launch a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy for research and talent.
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