Sci-tech

Google's AI powerhouse DeepMind is opening its first global lab in Canada

The Canadian government has demonstrated a willingness to invest in artificial intelligence, committing about $100 million ($125 million in Canadian currency) in its 2017 budget to develop the AI industry in the country.

Google's artificial intelligence (AI) subsidiary DeepMind has opened its first worldwide research lab in Edmonton, Canada. It's the first time the company has set up shop outside of the United Kingdom.

The University of Alberta will be working closely with scientists in the new AI research office.

DeepMind notes in its statement that it was a "big decision" to open its first non-UK research lab in Edmonton, though it makes sense given the company has had connections to the university over the past few years. "In fact, we've had particularly strong links with the UAlberta for many years: almost a dozen of its outstanding graduates have joined us at DeepMind, and we've sponsored the machine learning lab to provide additional funding for PhDs over the past few years".

The DeepMind Alberta team will be led by U of A computing science professor Richard Sutton and his colleagues Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski, and staffed with seven other researchers.

"This alignment of academic and practitioner-led research will drive a whole host of new scientific breakthroughs right here in Canada, propelling the field of AI forwards into exciting new territory", Sutton said in a news release. It is through these investments and efforts that Google and its DeepMind team hope to attract some of the brightest minds in AI research to the region.

"We were nearly exclusively focused on building tools that nurses and doctors wanted, and thought of our work as technology for clinicians rather than something that needed to be accountable to and shaped by patients, the public and the NHS as a whole", DeepMind said in a statement.

A number of leading AI researchers in Silicon Valley hail from Canada, where they plugged away at deep learning, a complex automated process of data analysis, during a period when that technology - now popular at major tech companies - was considered by the larger computer science community to be a dead end. DeepMind departed its own central London office last summer and moved into Google's swanky new office nearby.



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