Meet Canada, the Queen of AI

(As featured in Ross Intelligence- April 17, 2017)

Written by: Ava Chisling

It’s not often big business, government, non-profits and universities agree on anything, but when it comes to Canada being THE place for AI research and development, everyone is on board, including ROSS Intelligence.

The news seemed to arrive all at once, even though Canada has long been at the forefront of technology, from Vancouver’s film studios to Montreal’s world-class animation talent. But in the past few months, things were different. Everyone seemed to come together (a rarity) and as a group, all parties were thinking ahead (another rarity): academia, government, non-profit organizations and businesses all came out in strong support of artificial intelligence research and development.

The announcements were made in relatively quick succession: A new federal budget would provide $125 million to improve Canada’s competitive and strategic advantage in AI. The University of Toronto’s Vector Institute would hire roughly 25 new faculty and research scientists devoted to the field of artificial intelligence. The Quebec government agreed to invest $50M on AI this year, and another $50M by 2022, and at the same time, ROSS Intelligence announced it will open ROSS North in Toronto, partnering with the brightest minds in AI and technology. All of this in addition to the big players already committed to setting up shop in Canada. Let’s try to sort out why this country is such a hot spot for AI.

“Deep learning is the cause of the AI renaissance and Canada was one of the only places that would fund deep learning research,” says Jimoh Ovbiagele, Co-founder and CTO at ROSS Intelligence. “When deep learning broke through many of the obstacles that held it back, Canadian universities like the University of Toronto were the only places with experts in the field and with undergraduate and graduate programs that taught the subject.”

And although Ovbiagele says American companies hired many of Canada’s deep learning pioneers, offering them large salaries and resources like data (the key ingredient for machine learning) to support their research, Canada is still a leader in the field. “Canada has led the race and is still in the lead because of its concentration of deep learning talent and academic programs,” says Ovbiagele, “but it doesn’t mean that it will remain first unless there is an increase in funding. Otherwise we will continue to lose our talent to companies south of the border.”

“ROSS North’s mission is to use deep learning to unlock the law for billions of people around the world.”

To this end, ROSS Intelligence announced it will open a new research centre in Toronto on May 1, 2017. “ROSS North’s mission is to use deep learning to unlock the law for billions of people around the world. We will be working with Canadian research institutions, like the University of Toronto, to advance deep learning research and application,” says Ovbiagele.

As for companies like Google and Microsoft, their role in advancing AI and technology is absolutely critical. Says Ovbiagele, “Big players historically play a very important role in advancing new technologies. They are indispensable in the ecosystem. ROSS benefits greatly from the work they have done through the research they publish, fund, and open source.” According to Wired, “Canada is indeed a feast of AI research, and the big American companies want to make sure they have a seat at the table.”

Ovbiagele believes what ROSS is doing has immense significance and is work that is not being done in any other place. “We are taking cutting-edge technology fresh out of research labs and giving it purpose by applying it to real-world problems of enormous importance for access to justice. Our deep learning engineers are some of the smartest in the world and could work anywhere. What draws them to ROSS Intelligence is the opportunity to make an impact.”

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