Microsoft Partners with University of Waterloo on AI

Michael K. Spencer
Jun 26 · 3 min read

I’m Canadian and if McGill University is called the “Harvard of the North”, they should just come out and call Waterloo the “MIT of the North”. Besides Ivy league schools, the Waterloo boot is the highest concentration of graduating talent in technology.

New partnership boosts AI research at Waterloo

Waterloo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute joins Microsoft Canada to harness AI for Good. My brother went to Waterloo, so I really love this story.

However, as the University itself notes, Canada is not anywhere close to being a leader in fostering AI. According to a recent study, Canada ranked ninth out of ten countries when it came to the adoption and deployment of AI business applications — a shocking revelation when Canadian AI job opportunities grew by 500 per cent between 2015 and 2017.

So what’s happening? A lot of AI partnerships from Silicon Valley are swooping in to pluck the talent. The brain drain is real for AI towns like Montreal. As for Waterloo, grads can potentially work in Toronto, but probably most will go the the States.

Microsoft will invest $300,000 to partner with the University of Waterloo to advance research into artificial intelligence used for good purposes. It’s not much, but a great symbolic gesture, I think. It wasn’t too long ago that the University of Toronto (U of T) got a 100 million donation for an innovation center around AI.

Canada will be a leader in churning out talent in AI, at least. A high penetration of Chinese students can also be found in Canada and in our top engineering schools like Waterloo.

The University of Waterloo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute (Waterloo.ai) by getting this boost from Microsoft, is pretty committed to work and solve some of the world’s most significant challenges. Hardly a day goes by when MIT hasn’t found something useful in the field of AI for society’s benefit. You know, like the early diagnosis of breast cancer.

AI for Social Good

The funding will help fund eight new research projects at the Waterloo AI Institute, including using artificial intelligence to

  • Find new ways to improve emotional discovery in autistic individuals
  • Enhance climate change projections
  • Develop better fall detection for the elderly
  • Boost wildfire management and disaster response

In the 2020s and 2030s AI for social good will become a huge priority as the world shifts and will need new mechanisms to fight for things like equality, better healthcare, climate change and benefits that improve the quality of life for real humans.

Microsoft also needs some applause here, I think. Microsoft’s broader AI initiative includes applications in humanitarian efforts, improving accessibility, and addressing environmental challenges, with $50 million allocated to AI for Earth initiatives.

The partnership will see Microsoft provide access to the leading Azure technology as well as funding and expertise to help leverage AI for social good.

AI Talent Training Grounds

According to Betakit: According to PwC’s MoneyTree report, last year $548 million in venture capital was invested in Canadian AI companies, representing an increase of about 50 percent from the year before. According to a 2017 report, Canadian job opportunities in the field of AI grew by nearly 500 percent between June 2015 and June 2017 and Microsoft said this number will continue to rise.

Silicon Valley and Seattle based companies are establishing an AI presence to harness the brightest students from all over the world, and places like Canada and Taiwan certainly play a prominent role here. These are two of the places that are the low-hanging fruit for pumping out talent that’s affordable.

According to MobileSyrup, Waterloo.ai is a joint venture of the university’s faculties of Engineering and Mathematics. It also includes researchers from the Arts, Applied Health Sciences, as well as Environment and Science, as Waterloo’s leaders know AI is bigger than just Computer Science.

As the interdisciplinary nature of AI continues to evolve, it has the potential to impact nearly every industry and solve many real world problems. It will naturally also create a lot of new jobs.

Chris McIntyre, the managing director of the institute, said about 120 researchers across campus contribute to its research. The institute received 35 different project proposals from researchers who wanted to be involved with Microsoft.

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Artificial Intelligence Network

AIN is a place for AI enthusiasts, researchers, machine learning students and futurists to write and talk about artificial intelligence in all aspects of life.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, a prolific writer. DM me on LinkedIn for freelance quotes: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelkspencer/

Artificial Intelligence Network

AIN is a place for AI enthusiasts, researchers, machine learning students and futurists to write and talk about artificial intelligence in all aspects of life.

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