Borealis AI Heads West with New Vancouver Research Lab

Toronto and Montreal always receive the most “AI capital of Canada” discussion, but Vancouver is pulling itself closer to the top with more additions to the growing sector.

Borealis AI is helping the cause with the announcement of a brand new research centre in the city. The esteemed AI hub is expanding its network of labs further across the country and this new institute will focus on computer vision—a smaller field within machine learning that looks at how computers see and process the visual world.

The Vancouver lab will feature Greg Mori as its research director. Mori is a professor and the director of computing science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, so it was a natural choice to find someone from a local and leading university. Mori will be joined by Leonid Sigal, a University of British Columbia professor who will serve as an academic advisor. As is typically natural with relationships like this, Mori and Sigal will continue teaching at their respective universities while contributing to Borealis Vancouver.

Borealis AI labs are RBC institutes for research and typically focus on looking at how AI can help in the financial world, while also maintaining a specific outlook on how the emerging field can be used for social good.

“Applications of computer vision are new to the financial services industry,” said Foteini Agrafioti, head of Borealis AI. “We’re eager to apply this technology to tackle previously unsolvable problems that will benefit Canadian communities. Professor Mori and professor Sigal are global leaders in the field of computer vision both in industry and academia, and I’m excited to see what we can achieve together.”

Mori’s research focuses on semantic segmentation—machine learning techniques that look to label objects in a natural image down to the pixel level, whether it be a human face or a flower in the background. This degree of detail and recognition can help several industries including humanitarian and environmental efforts. Professor Sigal focuses research on visual understanding and reasoning problems.

“The visual world is such a rich source of information, but what’s missing is the holistic view that Borealis AI can provide with its data sources and expertise,” said professor Mori. “I’m excited to work with experts in so many disciplines, like reinforcement learning and natural language processing.”

Computer vision is an emerging subsector of AI and many new businesses and institutions are beginning to see how valuable it can be. Companies like eSight and OrCam are using computer vision to give sight back to those who are blind, a true humanitarian approach to AI.

Borealis AI has been expanding at a rapid pace over the past year, hiring leading researchers and finding new labs in new cities to continue their work in emerging fields. The AI lab added two top researchers two months ago and will continue to look for top educational talent to work with.

The new Vancouver lab is expected to open in fall 2018 and if it is anything like the other Borealis AI locations, it will house between 20 to 25 researchers and scientists. The Vancouver location joins an Edmonton and Toronto lab, with a Montreal expansion opening this spring as well.