Facebook Launches Montreal-Based AI Research Facility

Nearly two years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s intention to pursue, alongside increased connectivity and augmented/virtual reality technology, advancements in the field of artificial intelligence. Since then, the social media giant has made significant progress in the field, with one headline erroneously claiming an AI system had become dangerously intelligent, forcing the company to shut it down. Though inaccurately reported, the story offered an interesting look at some of the projects their AI research team is developing, with much of the focus on machine learning and communication.

In further pursuit of that mission, Facebook recently announced the opening of a new research facility dedicated to developing a broad range of AI projects. Located in Montreal, the lab joins Facebook’s three other research facilities in Menlo Park, New York City, and Paris, France. The three artificial intelligence research facilities work on a range of projects for FAIR, the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research team, a group composed of well over 100 scientists.

Joelle Pineau, professor and director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, is leading operations at the new facility. Pineau’s past research involved studying interactions between machines and humans, along with AI learning and decision making. She published a wealth of papers and even worked as part of an elite team that created an intelligent wheelchair with smart features that made it more responsive to the user.

According to Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Facebook, the lab will focus its research on both reinforcement learning, a style of machine learning rooted in the principles of human behavioral psychology, and dialog systems, which form the basis and protocols for communication between humans and AI systems. LeCun also said a major focus of the lab will be forming stronger relationships with other research and academic communities through collaborative projects, conferences, and publications.

McGill University, the academic home of the Montreal facility’s director, is the target of one such partnership. The Université de Montréal,the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research were also mentioned as future partners for collaborative projects and research sharing. Facebook’s policy of openness towards AI research are promising, as their level of funding simply rivals what most universities have at their disposal. Likewise, with labs now spread across three countries, it should be interesting to see how the international community contributes to Facebook’s vision of a collective push for greater AI development.

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Dil Bole Oberoi