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Facebook opens AI research lab in Montreal

The announcement has provided a significant boost to Canada’s already flourishing tech industry. Facebook said the team working out of the lab will be exploring a “wide range” of AI research projects. In particular, the group will focus on systems specialised in reinforcement learning and dialog inference.
The lab will be headed by Professor Joelle Pineau, co-director of the Reasoning and Learning Lab in Computer Science at McGill University. Pineau has previously designed algorithms that assist robots in learning new procedures, reasoning with themselves and planning approaches to problems.
Facebook’s recently signalled a growing interest in anticipatory, thoughtful AI. The Montreal research centre will allow it to pursue further investments in the area. The lab will be partnered with several Canadian institutes, including the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA). It’ll also work with Facebook’s AI Research teams in Menlo Park, New York and Paris.
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“Montreal already has an existing fantastic academic AI community, an exciting ecosystem of startups, and promising government policies to encourage AI research,” said Facebook. “We are excited to become part of this larger community, and we look forward to engaging with the entire ecosystem and helping it to continue to thrive.”
The launch of the lab last week was assisted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec innovation minister Dominique Anglade. For Canada, one of the foremost countries in AI research, Facebook’s announcement has been a welcome recognition of its academic lead in the field. The decision will help to keep Canada’s talent within its borders.
Growing numbers of companies are beginning to choose Canada as a base for their AI research efforts. Facebook’s joining tech firms including Google and Microsoft in investing in Canada. Earlier this year, Uber announced it’s moving into the country too. The company wants to tap into Canadian AI expertise to aid the development of self-driving cars.
Facebook’s already opened its new lab with an initial team of 10 researchers. The company intends to triple that figure in the coming years, indicating a long-term commitment to harbouring an AI research group in Montreal. For the researchers graduating from Montreal University, it’s the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

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