Category Archives: Science and technology

Montreal’s Element AI to boost projects with $102M financing deal

Montreal Gazette  BERTRAND MAROTTE

Element CEO Jean-François Gagné, centre, speaks with staff in Montreal. His firm said new funding will allow it to hire hundreds of top researchers and expand worldwide with AI-based solutions. JOHN MAHONEY

Montreal-based Element AI, a key player in the city’s burgeoning artificial-intelligence sector, has clinched a major financing deal to fund future growth and job creation.

Element is set to announce on Wednesday that it has raised US$102-million from a group of investors led by San Francisco venture capital fund Data Collective (DCVC).

The deal is the largest Series A funding round for an AI company in history, according to Element.

The investment will allow Element to “accelerate its capabilities and invest in large-scale AI projects internationally, solidifying its position as the largest global AI company in Canada and creating 250 jobs in the Canadian high-tech sector by January 2018,” it said in a news release.

Element was founded last year by tech entrepreneurs Jean-François Gagné and Nicolas Chapados, Montreal venture capital fund Real Ventures, and Université de Montréal AI scientist Yoshua Bengio.

The company aims to make cutting-edge AI research and innovation available to other companies seeking to tap into AI and also help develop new firms in the rapidly growing field.

“Artificial intelligence is a ‘must have’ capability for global companies,” Element chief executive Gagné said. “Without it, they are competitively impaired if not at grave risk of being obseleted in place.

“Seasoned AI investors at DCVC understood this, and supported us to democratize the AI firepower reserved today for only the largest of tech corporations.”

The new funding will allow Element to hire hundreds of top researchers as well as expand internationally with AI-based solutions

for customers in such areas as cybersecurity, fintech, manufacturing, logistics, transportation and robotics, the company said.

Element boasts that it has “pioneered a unique, non-exploitative model of academic co-operation” whose talent and advanced research “matches or exceeds even the largest tech corporations’ reach and budgets.”

“The most serious problems facing global industry and government today involve too much complex and rapidly changing data for the cognitive capacity of even large numbers of human experts working together,” said DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko.

A central aspect of AI is machine learning, which involves the creation of computer neural networks that mimic human brain activity and can program themselves to solve complex problems rather than having to be programmed.

Fun is in evidence at CSI exhibit

If you have watched any police procedural show you have most certainly heard of IBIS, but did you know it was developed here in Montreal? I had no idea until I read this article (scroll down) in the Gazette by Bill Brownstein. —CPL 
 In the early 1990s, Forensic Technology, located atop a Montreal Urban Community police station across from the Cavendish Mall in Côte-St-Luc, created the groundbreaking, automated Integrated Ballistics Identification System, better known as IBIS.
 From Wikipedia:
Automated firearms identification is now a universally accepted technology. As the system with the largest installed base, IBIS has become the de facto world standard.

The emergence of a world standard enables law enforcement agencies worldwide to share ballistic data. This capability is now being leveraged as a tool for international collaboration among law enforcement agencies worldwide. Countries have begun to link up their IBIS systems. Europe already has EURO-IBIS, while the United States recently concluded an agreement to link their NIBIN system with Canada’s.

INTERPOL

In early 2009, INTERPOL signed an agreement with Forensic Technology, wherein the latter will install and maintain an IBIS correlation server at INTERPOL headquarters in Lyon, France. To facilitate ballistic information sharing among INTERPOL member-countries in Asia, a second IBIS Correlation Server was installed at the INTERPOL Centre for Global Innovation in Singapore in 2015.

Forensics analyst tackles crime display at Science Centre

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI Bob Walsh of Forensic Technology reviews a mock crime scene for clues at an exhibit called A House Collided, part of the CSI: The Experience program, currently running at the Montreal Science Centre.

CSI chief Gil Grissom, via a video monitor, instructs a group of aspiring sleuths to look carefully at the evidence left behind at the crime scene and then wishes them luck in solving a messy murder case.

Among the would-be detectives is the dapper Bob Walsh, sporting a turned-up, Columbostyle trench coat and looking very much like Central Casting’s notion of a TV gumshoe.

With pencil and notepad in hand, Walsh, like the others, proceeds to check out a crime referred to as “A House Collided,” wherein a vehicle is lodged halfway into the living room of a home, and behind the wheel is a banged-up and bloodied dead man. All manner of evidence — from a slipper to a pizza carton — is strewn about the scene.

Welcome to CSI: The Experience at the Montreal Science Centre in the Old Port, where budding investigators, from schoolchildren to nonagenarians, have been converging to attempt to solve three different cases inspired by the CSI TV series.

This interactive exhibition not only (somewhat graphically) depicts murder scenes, but also allows sleuths the opportunity to carry out scientific testing in labs and to examine (facsimiles of ) corpses in an autopsy room before compiling a final report as to who committed this heinous deed and for what reason.

A computer then informs the would-be investigators whether they have correctly solved the case or if they would be better off delivering pizzas than embarking on a career in crime-detection.

Walsh, who is here at my request, is more familiar than most with crime detection. In the early 1990s, his company Forensic Technology, located atop a Montreal Urban Community police station across from the Cavendish Mall in Côte-StLuc, created the groundbreaking, automated Integrated Ballistics Identification System, better known as IBIS.

Simply put, this technology accurately proves that every fired bullet and cartridge casing tells its own story. That’s because every firearm, from handguns to howitzers, has unique characteristics — the equivalent of human fingerprints — that are transferred to the bullets and casings when shot.

Forensic labs — including the RCMP, INTERPOL, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the U.S. — in more than 70 countries employ this ammo-identification system (now available in 3D-HD), which has been credited with getting convictions, and has been featured in the TV crime labs of the various CSI and Law & Order series, as well as numerous films.

Continue reading Fun is in evidence at CSI exhibit

Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal is welcoming leading technologists to the city this week for the C2 (commerce/creativity) conference, just as the city could be on the verge of becoming an international hub for Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Capitalizing on this brewing revolution will require governments to drastically alter traditional modus operandi, loosening their grip on the entrepreneurial class and suppressing nationalistic impulses.

Advocating for massive government spending with little restraint admittedly deviates from the tenor of these columns, but the AI business is unlike any other before it. Having leaders acting as fervent advocates for the industry is crucial; resisting the coming technological tide is, as the Borg would say, futile.

The roughly 250 AI researchers who call Montreal home are not simply part of a niche industry. Quebec’s francophone character and Montreal’s multilingual citizenry are certainly factors favouring the development of language technology, but there’s ample opportunity for endeavours with broader applications.

AI isn’t simply a technological breakthrough; it is the technological revolution. In the coming decades, modern computing will transform all industries, eliminating human inefficiencies and maximizing opportunities for innovation and growth — regardless of the ethical dilemmas that will inevitably arise.

“By 2020, we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain,” said (in 2009) futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near, a seminal 2006 book that has inspired a generation of AI technologists. Kurzweil’s projections are not science fiction but perhaps conservative, as some forms of AI already effectively replace many human cognitive functions. “By 2045, we’ll have expanded the intelligence of our human-machine civilization a billion-fold. That will be the singularity.”

Continue reading Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal to become world centre of AI

Montreal is positioning itself to become a world centre of artificial intelligence with impressive amounts of cash flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups. Bertrand Marotte reports on some of the big brains behind the suddenly hot trend.

PHOTOS: JOHN MAHONEY Jean-François Gagné is co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched in Montreal last year. “We want to be part of that conversation — shaping what AI is going to look like,” he says.

It might seem like an ambitious goal, but key players in Montreal’s rapidly growing artificial intelligence sector are intent on transforming the city into a Silicon Valley of AI.

Certainly, the flurry of activity these days indicates that AI in the city is on a roll. Impressive amounts of cash have been flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups active in AI in the Montreal area.

And hopes are high that a threeday conference starting May 24 — AI Forum — will help burnish Montreal’s reputation as one of the world’s emerging AI advanced research centres and top talent pools in the suddenly very hot tech trend.

Topics and issues on the agenda include the evolution of AI in Montreal and the transformative impact AI can have on business, industry and the economy.

For example, researchers at Microsoft Corp. have successfully developed a computing system able to decipher conversational speech as accurately as humans do. The technology makes the same, or fewer, errors than professional transcribers and could be a huge boon to major users of transcription services like law firms and the courts.

Setting the goal of attaining the critical mass of a Silicon Valley is “a nice point of reference,” said tech entrepreneur Jean-François Gagné, co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched last year.

“It’s ambitious,” allowed Gagné, one of the keynote speakers at the AI Forum, held in partnership with the annual C2 Montréal international gabfest.

The idea is to create a “fluid, dynamic ecosystem” in Montreal where AI research, startup, investment and commercialization activities all mesh productively together, said Gagné, who founded Element with researcher Nicolas Chapados and Université de Montréal deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio.

Continue reading Montreal to become world centre of AI

New driverless bus hits congested streets of downtown Montreal

From the Montreal Gazette, May 17

Montrealers got a glimpse of the future in public transportation with free demo rides aboard a driverless shuttle bus.

The “autonomous driverless electric” shuttle bus operated in a closed circuit next to the Palais des Congrès, where the 2017 Montreal Global Public Transport Summit  runs until May 17.

Passengers were given a short ride around a public square (Place Jean-Paul Riopelle) aboard the Navya shuttle, which followed a pre-determined, mapped-out route via GPS.

View video

Most passengers seemed to like the electric shuttle’s smooth ride.

“It’s incredible,” said Leonardo Secondi, who enjoyed his short spin. “It’s super-smooth. It can detect if anything comes at it from 100 metres away, then it will come to a dead stop.”

“It is state-of-the-art,” he said Secondi, adding that such driverless shuttles are the future.

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Norway Is Building the World’s Biggest Tunnel for Ships, and It’s Absolutely Massive

The world’s first tunnel for ships is to be built in Norway. The Stad Ship Tunnel, which is expected to open in 2023, will allow vessels to avoid a treacherous part of sea. Engineers will first have to blast 8m tonnes of rock to build the tunnel which will be able to accommodate cruise and freight ships

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2017/apr/06/worlds-first-tunnel-ship-built-norway-video

Norway has formally announced its plan to build the world’s largest tunnel for ships, paving the way for a gigantic 1.7-kilometre (1 mile) passageway to be dug underneath a rocky peninsula in the country’s north-west.

The Stad Ship Tunnel, which is expected to cost some US$312 million to complete, will enable cruise liners, freight ships, and smaller vessels to take an underground shortcut through the Stad peninsula – avoiding the rough winds and waters of the Stadhavet Sea, the most treacherous stretch of Norway’s coastline.

http://www.sciencealert.com/norway-is-building-the-world-s-first-tunnel-for-ships-and-it-s-massive

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stad_Ship_Tunnel