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article imageMicrosoft to double the size of its Montreal AI lab

By James Walker     Jan 25, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft has announced it will double the size of its Montreal research lab over the next two years. Once the work is complete, 75 skilled engineers will work at the facility under the leadership of new director Geoffrey Gordon, a renowned AI expert.
Worldwide AI hub
The announcement was made at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed the company's investments in Canada with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In a news post, Microsoft acknowledged Montreal is becoming a "worldwide hub" for developments in AI and machine learning.
Microsoft is following several other major tech companies in stepping up its presence in the Montreal AI scene. Companies including Facebook and Samsung have recently opened new facilities in the city as it becomes one of the top global locations to source AI talent.
Microsoft said its expanded research lab will develop foundational AI systems that progress the fundamentals of the technology. This work will then help to build new Microsoft products for mainstream consumer and commercial use. Gordon's background in both foundational and applied AI will enable the lab to work on a broad range of technologies for incorporation into Microsoft services.
"We want to be doing the research that will be infusing AI into Microsoft products today and tomorrow, and Geoff's research really spans that," said Jennifer Chayes, a Microsoft Research managing director and technical fellow.
"He'll be able to help us improve our products and he'll also be laying the foundation for AI to do much more than is possible today. Given that we want a very broad AI lab, Geoff is the ideal position to lead it, and to create the fundamental research that underlies the next generation of AI."
AI that plans
One area the lab will focus on is the development of AI with long-term planning. AI currently struggles to combine actions into a logical plan for future execution. Although modern AI is adept at certain tasks, such as computer vision and voice recognition, it's less capable of combining inputs, reasoning and then chaining different outcomes in response.
Microsoft's already been working on this technology, developing new ways for AI to handle complex tasks. The additional resources available at the larger lab should enable new breakthroughs to be made in the field. This will help create smarter AI agents and information processors that have similar thought processes to humans.
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With Microsoft the latest company to invest in Montreal, Canada's AI credentials are growing yet stronger. The company was welcomed by Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of innovation, science and economic development.
"I am pleased that our government's investment and skills continues to position Canada as a world-leading destination for AI companies and impressive researchers like Geoff Gordon," he said.
More about Microsoft, Ai, Artificial intelligence, Montreal, Canada