Microsoft Makes AI Moves in Montreal

By Alicia Young January 19, 2017

Anyone looking to move to Canada after January 20 may want to take a look at Montreal.  Yes, it has beautiful scenery, a lot to do, and is populated by our friendly Canadian neighbors, but it’s also quickly becoming one of the biggest AI powerhouses in the world. This evolution is largely thanks to Microsoft and the many investments it’s made recently in Montreal’s AI future.

 Early in January, Microsoft acquired Canadian startup Maluuba, which focuses on general artificial intelligence, and is moving it to Montreal. According to a recent article, “Maluuba focuses on natural language processing, in service of pursuing general artificial intelligence, or building computers that can think like people.” It does this through deep learning and reinforcement learning with the hopes of increasing the proficiency and effectiveness of computer-based systems. The goal is to eventually have AI answer questions, make decisions, understand natural language and so on, just like a human would.

Now, Microsoft is investing even further in Montreal’s AI future. The tech giant announced on Wednesday that it will be expanding its research and design office in Montreal; it hopes to double the size of the office over the next two years. According to another post, Microsoft will also be investing in Montreal’s academic community by giving $6 million in funding “gifts” to the University of Montreal. Additionally, Microsoft will also donate $1 million to McGill University’s research efforts, which is to be used over the next five years.

Microsoft has chosen to make such investments in these universities because The University of Montreal is home to the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, which is headed by a major name in the AI community: Yoshua Bengio. These investments are also a small piece of a much bigger AI puzzle being put together in Montreal. Other companies, such as Google, have also started building AI labs and investing in the city.

With so many AI assistants on the map, like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri, it’ll be hard for other companies who haven’t entirely hopped on board yet to catch up. Microsoft’s Cortana is an added asset to Windows users, but will these new investments in Montreal take Cortana to the next level? Or will Microsoft soon put out a new AI all together? We’ll just have to wait and see…

If the future of AI is something you’re interested in learning more about, make sure to check out ITEXPO, the business technology event being  held Feb. 8-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Conference panels will feature several sessions centered on AI, including “How AI is Changing the Customer Experience” and “Why AI Makes Your Wi-Fi Smarter.” 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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