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Leila Kosseim

Leila Kosseim

President, CAIAC

Cyril Goutte

Cyril Goutte

Co-chair, Canadian AI 2020

Today, the term “artificial intelligence” is everywhere — from TV ads to news headlines, everyone seems to be doing this new thing.  However, we must remember that this new thing isn’t new at all.  The term was coined back in 1956 (yes, 63 years ago!) at a small get-together of a few scientists at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  

AI has come a long way since its early days. Through the years, the field has been through ups and downs (known as ‘AI winters’, where research funding was scarce and little progress was made). However, AI research in Canada has always been vibrant. Since 1973, Canadian AI researchers always made time to get together, meet, and discuss their research. Little by little, these get-togethers turned into an annual full-fledged conference known as the Canadian AI Conference. 

In the past decade, AI has seen tremendous growth through the development of deep neural networks. Not only has deep learning (DL) revolutionized all fields of AI, it has revolutionized most scientific fields. By providing efficient methods to turn data into actionable insights, DL has led to breakthroughs in machine vision, medical imaging, natural language processing, speech recognition, robotics, and many other fields. Canada should be proud to know that this breakthrough was born from Canadian researchers whose names are now household names: Y. Bengio, G. Hinton, and R. Sutton. Rightly so, these researchers received many prestigious awards for their contribution to science, including the Turing Award, the Order of Canada, and the CAIAC Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Through student internships and collaborations with academia, the industry can count on our graduate students to help it apply DL knowledge and become ‘AI-savvy.’

Today, through government funding, Canada has not only been able to retain its AI talent, but also attract internationally-renowned scientists, and has created major research institutes as well as labs (large and small) where professors, researchers, and most importantly students, develop new ideas and apply them to new domains. The industry has a vital role in this ecosystem: to provide the expertise to transfer this knowledge to create tools that are relevant to society. Through student internships and collaborations with academia, the industry can count on our graduate students to help it apply DL knowledge and become ‘AI-savvy.’

For the industry to efficiently find and attract these talents, interaction with academia is key.  This can range from participation in local workshops between individual labs and start-ups, all the way to participating in, and sponsoring, large international conferences. Canadian AI 2020, the 33rd Canadian Conference on Artificial Intelligence, will be held in Ottawa in May and is a great opportunity to meet highly-trained graduate students. Students get mentoring at the Graduate Student Symposium and display their work in oral or poster presentations at the main conference. At the industrial track, companies can increase their visibility, and discuss their ideas with Canadian AI researchers and students.

These are great times for AI in Canada. Our students are trained by the greatest minds in the world, they’re skilled in the use of up-to-date DL tools, and, most importantly, they’re eager to transfer their knowledge. So, don’t be shy. Reach out. Participate in conferences. This is where our brightest students will be.  

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