UAlberta to Push Critical Areas of Research for the Future of All Canadians

EDMONTON (March 23, 2017)—In a move that will boost artificial intelligence (AI) research across the country, the Government of Canada announced Wednesday the funding of a pan-Canadian AI Strategy to enhance research and recruit talent. Administered through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the $125 million program will promote collaboration between post-secondary institutions in Montréal, Toronto-Waterloo, and Edmonton.

“Our University of Alberta researchers have been world leaders in artificial intelligence for decades. I’m very pleased the government has moved forward and invested in this absolutely critical area for the future of all Canadians,” says University of Alberta President David Turpin.

With applications as diverse as enhanced medical diagnoses to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence is a continually growing area of research with the potential to transform all facets of society. The field already attracts investment from major technology players like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The global market for artificial intelligence-related products is expected to reach $47 billion by 2020.

“Canadian universities train some of the best AI researchers in the world,” says Cameron Schuler, Executive Director of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), housed at the University of Alberta. “With this latest investment, Canada will build on existing strengths to retain and attract talented individuals, drive innovation and advances in industry, and take our place on the global stage as leaders in AI.”

The strategy aims to further develop Canada’s AI ecosystem and position the country as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in artificial intelligence and innovation. “This investment in deep AI builds on Canada’s strength as a pioneer in AI research and will provide a strong foundation for Canada to build on its global leadership in this important and exciting field,” says Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR.

In addition to retaining top talent, enhancing recruitment and training across Canada, the new funding will enable further collaborations between industry and academic institutions. Some of the recent industry collaborations at the University of Alberta include research partnerships, with large companies like RBC, and project-based ones, such as optimizing control systems with Edmonton-based companies like ISL Engineering and Willowglen Systems.

“There is some truly fascinating AI research coming out of Canada,” says Richard Sutton, professor of computing science in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science and researcher at Amii, world-renowned for his boundary pushing research in reinforcement learning. “Canada is punching above its weight in the field, and we’re thrilled the federal government is committed to building on this strong base. We’ve only scratched the surface of what AI can do and are excited to unleash even greater possibilities in deep reinforcement learning.”

What is Machine Intelligence?

Existing at the intersection of machine learning and artificial intelligence, machine intelligence is advanced computing that enables a machine to interact with its environment in an intelligent way.

Amii specializes in the research and development of machine learning technologies, including their application in artificial intelligence.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a set of algorithms, processes and methodologies that allow a computer system to perform tasks that would normally require human-level intelligence. AI can appear as a component in a larger system or in the form of a computer application, digital agent or autonomous machine.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a field of computing science focused around developing algorithms that enable a computer system to independently learn from, and continuously adapt to, data without being explicitly programmed for that data. Machine learning is a crucial component in many artificial intelligence systems.

Where is Machine Learning Used?
  • Recommender systems (e.g. Netflix or Amazon)
  • Contextual web searches (e.g. Google)
  • Intelligent digital assistants (e.g. Cortana or Siri)
  • Game-playing AI (e.g. AlphaGo or Cepheus)
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Email spam filters
Why is Machine Intelligence Important?

Recently, machine intelligence technologies have experienced a global resurgence due to growing volumes and varieties of data, the utility of this data in training smart systems and an increased awareness of the value of data in providing a competitive edge in business.

Machine intelligence is expected to form the basis for most technological and business advancements for years to come. According to a report issued by McKinsey & Company, technologies that employ machine intelligence will have created over $50 trillion in economic impact by the year 2025.

How Can Machine Intelligence Enhance My Business?

Machine intelligence allows organizations to operate more efficiently and effectively, using data to predict the future and manage the present.

Computer systems with machine intelligence can perform a variety of tasks:

  • Optimize and automate processes
  • Extract and classify data
  • Detect, analyze and predict trends/patterns
  • Enhance interaction with humans/the environment

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