Yoshua Bengio
Yoshua Bengio

Google has announced that it would extend funding for AI research at the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA). The company will invest a total of $3.4 million, to fund seven faculty members across the institute, as well as MILA faculty at the University of Montreal and McGill University, Ars Technica reported.

According to a report in Wired, Hugo Larochelle will run the new lab after joining Google from Twitter, where he was part of the company's central AI team.

It's a homecoming for Larochelle, who earned a PhD in machine learning from the University of Montreal and remains a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke. Yoshua Bengio, one of the founding fathers of the movement, calls him "one of the rising stars of deep learning".

Montreal, in particular, has developed a concentration of expertise in the area of AI, largely thanks to the efforts of Université de Montréal professor 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.

Google's investment 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.

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.

Because deep learning technology has only recently pushed into the commercial world, talent in the field is still quite scarce, and the big players are angling for any advantage they can find in the hunt for top researchers and new ideas, Wired reported

Last year, Facebook opened an AI lab in Paris, another deep learning hotbed, after building its first lab around New York University professor Yann LeCun in Manhattan. In Canada, Google already has strong ties to the University of Toronto after acqui-hiring Geoff Hinton, another founding father of the deep learning movement, in 2013.

Apple, meanwhile, just hired Carnegie Mellon University researcher Russ Salakhutdinov. Amazon is building a new machine learning group around Alex Smola, another notable CMU researcher. And just last week, Google snapped up Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li, who started the ImageNet contest, a competition that helped catalyze the rise of deep neutral networks.

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