AI Demo Night, March 2017
Hundreds Flocked to UdeM for a Discussion of Tech’s Hottest Topic
A large and normally spacious atrium at Ecole Polytechnique was the scene of the latest Demo Night from Montreal NewTech. Presented by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, our theme for the evening was Artificial Intelligence and we opened the proceedings with an AI roundtable discussion featuring 2 rockstars in this space: Yoshua Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) and Google Montreal Site Director, Mr. Shibl Mourad. Quite a lineup indeed!
To summarize some key themes from the discussion, both YB & SM are in agreement on a number of things that must happen to make Montreal a top level tech and startup hub, and also to retain its position as a global leader in the AI field.
YB explained that machine learning still has a long way to go before is has a comprehensive understanding of language, while SM explained that the Google Assistant project is progressing nicely, but his firm has made excellent progress using AI for its Google Translate product. Both men also discussed the vibe of the AI community, explaining that regardless of borders we are seeing different groups of researchers working on challenges together and helping one another solve problems… a real sense of community that we don’t find in most industries.
Later YB explained that he believes the governments of Montreal, Quebec and Canada need to do their economic planning from a mindset that leverages the assets of our economy in an optimal way, making it easier to invest here and maintain our position in the AI field. Talent, for example, being the key to all of this. We have some talent now but it takes 5 years to complete a PhD, which Bengio argues is too long for current economic cycles, suggesting instead that ways be found to get talented people into the field faster even if they only have part of the expertise or knowledge that a PhD brings. Essentially creating an entry level group of people who can work in AI.
SM followed up saying Google is just 15 years old. Facebook closer to 10, and Uber is about 5. In other words, we are only scratching the surface if what can be accomplished in this field, and it will continue to grow very quickly. He added, “This is why we invest so much and work so hard at Google. We don’t have that big of a lead in this space, and we believe that other companies can easily catch up over time”.
He also raised the importance of marketing in the future of AI, stating that the industry needs people who can imagine new and creative ways to use AI and begin developing products to fill those market opportunities.
A video of the entire discussion is available here.
Following this inciteful roundtable, we heard from 3 MILA researchers who discussed their projects and how they are trying to leverage AI to develop new technologies. These incredible students are developing technologies for artistic style transfers, learning and comprehension of video content as well as voice analysis technology that can quickly analyse voice patterns and then pronounce words in a person’s voice without them ever having said those words.
Of course, no demo night would be complete without the demos themselves! Here’s the lineup we had on hand for the March event:
First up, Amir from Botler.ai. Launched just last month, this tool is designed to help people who are trying to immigrate to our country. You can upload documents and information about your file and Botler helps you identify and fill out all the necessary forms and paperwork. In other words, it saves a lot of time for people going through this tedious and lengthy process, and help applicants cut down on mistakes.
Second, C2RO. Currently in incubation at TandemLaunch, C2RO is a collaborative cloud robotics platform using technology to provide intelligent and data-driven software services in the area of machine learning and computer vision for mobile robots. They basically take the brains of a robot and host it in the cloud. This makes it much easier to have “intelligent” machines what are part of the IoT. It’s cheaper, allows for the use of real time data and decision making, fast and secure and the tech is robot agnostic too. Check them out at http://c2ro.com/
Next up, Mindset, a startup that offers smart headphones that improve performance and focus at work. David explains that the average person wastes over 20,000 hours due to lack of focus over the course of their career. That’s both from daydreaming after you’ve been staring at a screen too long and also the time it takes to go for a little walk, get a coffee and then eventually re-focus. Check them out on digital trends for more info on how these headphones keep people dialed in on the task at hand.
Certainly one of the most practical applications of AI that we’ve seen, Imagia is leveraging the amazing power of this new technology to detect and predict cancer using deep radiomics. We know that the sooner cancer is detected, the better the life expectancy. Accurate and early detection can make the difference between life and death. And even the most experienced radiologist can make mistakes. Imagia is going down a path that can have a real and positive impact on the quality of life for people all across the world. Follow them here to stay up to date on their progress.
And last but not least Enkidoo Technologies provides cloud-based business applications that also integrate with a wide array of ERP, CRM, E-Commerce and other business applications. Their Enkitime product provides all the tools you need to manage your projects, rolled into one solution. Track your time, manage your projects and tasks, estimate the resources needed, make expense reports, bill your clients and get notifications from your personal-assistant bot. For IT teams: combine your kanban board and monitor the vital activity streams of your agile team.
Follow them here to keep up to date on their news!
As always we thank all our partners and sponsors for making this month’s event possible, and we’d like to take this time to invite all our followers to join us for next month’s demo night. On April 4, 2017, our theme will be smart cities and we’ll be back at Place Ville Marie hosted at the Espace CDPQ. Follow this link for additional details and to get yourself a ticket through Eventbrite. See you all there!