A new Canadian AI powerhouse has appeared.
The school that has been referred to as “Canada’s Stanford” is taking one more big step to cement its reputation as a top university not only in the country but around the world. The University of Waterloo opened the doors today to its AI Institute, dubbed Waterloo.ai.
The institute’s goals are to seize opportunities to lead AI research and application in emerging areas; enable conditions that support impact in the AI sector; increase interdisciplinary research; and build a better awareness around the world of Waterloo’s research press in both AI and the tech scene as a whole.
Opening Waterloo.ai coincides with the fact that Kitchener-Waterloo was named as Canada’s fastest-growing market for tech talent back in November 2017.
Waterloo.ai has also partnered with some existing academic institutions including the Vector Institute and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA). They also have some private partners, including the Borealis AI Lab, who will be partnering with the university to open a new location this fall.
“The University of Waterloo has really ramped up its AI presence, which is founded on years of stellar machine learning research and industry collaborations,” said Foteini Agrafioti, the head of Borealis AI. “The Waterloo.ai Institute is the natural evolution of that leadership. With the Borealis AI Waterloo lab opening in September under the helm of professor Pascal Poupart, our partnership with Waterloo.ai made perfect sense. We expect incredible value to come out of this collaboration.”
The institute will take a deliberate focus on both functional and operational AI in a wealth of different fields and applications, from computer science and combinatorics to public health and environmental sciences. The team will embed active internal academic membership, creating a network of researchers with their own teams.
Building on that, machine learning, probabilistic models, intelligent agents and game theory, data science, human-machine interaction and other specialties will be the focus of the foundational Waterloo.ai team. The operational team will look at scalable AI and how to make it secure, accessible, compact and transparent.
The first co-directors Waterloo.ai announced are Fakhri Karray, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, and Peter van Beek, a math professor with the Cheriton School of Computer Science. In total, there is well over 60 professors from the University of Waterloo involved with Waterloo.ai.
Waterloo.ai has more than 15 projects on the go at any one time, ranging from health-focused medical imaging to hockey analytics—and even an AI/masonry initiative. Many of the projects are supported by multi-million dollar grants and have multi-year plans, while other projects—like a partnership with messaging app Kik—are already seeing implementation and testing.
There will be a lot of news coming out of Waterloo.ai in the near future as they work to bring in more industry and educational partners. On top of all that, they are also a major part of the SCALE.AI supercluster—one of five in total that will all split $950 million in government funding.