Over the last few days, the RE•WORK team have been here at the Deep Learning Summit in Montreal, the Canadian AI capital, where we’ve heard from experts from some of the leading research hubs and companies from across the globe. We’ve been joined by AI pioneers Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun and Geoffrey Hinton who shared their most recent research advancements and also appeared on an exclusive panel discussion, talking about the landscape of AI.

The event covered both research progressions and business applications of AI and we heard how deep learning is transforming every industry it touches from healthcare, to retail, finance and many more. We heard from the likes of Google Brain, Facebook, Uber, Maluuba, Intel and countless other names in deep learning as well as CEOs and Founders of emerging startups. Across the board, attendees included CTOs, Data Scientists, Researchers and many more who shared their expertise and networked with attendees. We’ve also seen interactive workshops taking place from IBM, Thales Group and Accenture where attendees explored business applications, as well as participating in roundtables, networking drinks, and panel discussions.

What did you miss?

On Monday night, attendees joined us in the venue bar for pre-registration and networking drinks where we heard what everyone was most looking forward to:

  • I’m looking forward to Hugo Larochelle talking about meta learning. I’m most looking forward to watching the panel and see them go at each other on the ethical implications of AI. @atg_abhishek, Ericsson
  • I’m new to the field and I’m really keen to see people from other areas who use AI and DL in other industries. Julien Potvin, Mediative
  • This is going to sound really geeky, but I came to see if the deep learning bubble is actually just a bubble or whether it’s really applicable to business. Ignacio Rosario, McKinsey & Company

Over the two days, we heard some amazing presentations as well as announcements of huge progressions in the field. We were joined by Quebec’s Minister of Finance, Carlos Leitão, who announced that Thales Group will open a lab in Montreal early next year in collaboration with the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), with plans to hire 50 AI scientists by mid-2019. We also heard first hand from TwentyBN that they have made a huge breakthrough with their video understanding work.

Here are some of the top takeaways from the presentations:
  • What's amazing about deep learning is that all of these different applications can be applied using the same model - so what we've learned is to get creative! Hanlin Tang - Intel
  • There's been such rapid progress in recent years. Since 2012 on the image net, all of that progress is essentially because of the advances of the learning we’ve made - it’s not only because of the computational resources, but also the research progress. Aaron Courville, University of Montreal
  • I love Uber's commitment to Toronto - I was not going to move to the silicon valley, the silicon valley should move to Canada. Raquel Urtasun, Uber
  • With lip syncing from audio, we can work on dubbing to translate a movie but make sure the mouth matches the new language which is really exciting. Ira Kemelmacher, Facebook
  • When I started working at Facebook, there were people working on face recognition, it would have been the last thing I’d have tried convolutional nets on, but it works really well! And for translation - who would have thought that! Yann LeCun, Facebook
Panel of Pioneers

For the first time ever, we were lucky enough to bring together the pioneers of AI for an exclusive panel discussion. Joelle Pineau from McGill University who was moderating the discussion began by asking each pioneer to introduce their neighbour, which immediately generated a laugh from the packed auditorium. Yoshua kicked off by saying ‘here’s Yann, I met him doing my masters and he was doing his post doc with Geoff and later Yann invited me to come and work with him and start working in convolutional neural networks, and it’s still the hot thing today!’ Yann went on to introduce Geoffrey and said ‘I’ll be historical as well, when I was an undergrad I studied neural nets and realised there was no research published in the 70s. I saw a paper entitled Optimal Perceptual Inference and Geoff was one of the three authors. I read the paper and knew I needed to meet Geoffrey.’ We finally heard from Geoff who joked that he might have been the supervisor for Bengio’s thesis, but couldn’t actually remember. He went on to say ‘It was a very nice thesis and it was applying neural networks to speech recognition. Yoshua and I have done well in Canada because Canada supports basic research. Things are happening very fast now and I just can’t keep up with Yoshua now! There’s a couple of archive papers a week and I’ve been particularly impressed by his work on attention and my feeling was that Yoshua was the youngest and he had some catching up to do, but unfortunately I think he’s caught up! He’s now made the impact that Yann made on CNNs in his own field.' Read the whole panel discussion here.

Women in AI

Women working in the tech industry are still underrepresented, and we are keen to help promote role models working in the space and encourage new generations into the field. Throughout the event, we recorded new episodes of the Women in AI Podcast and we have exciting new episodes coming up with Doina Precup, McGill University, Layla El Asri, Maluuba, Ira Kemelmacher, Facebook, Aparna Lakshmi, Facebook, Adriana Romero, Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms and other exciting guests. Subscribe to the podcast here to stay up to date!

At the end of the second day of the summit, we headed across the city for the Women in Machine Intelligence dinner, hosted by Navrina Singh from Microsoft, and sponsored by Canadian AI company, Maluuba. The evening brought together supporters of women in tech for a three course meal, wine, and presentations from Layla El Asri, Aparna Lakshmi and Adriana Romero who shared both their recent work and their experiences of being women in the field.

The event has demonstrated the amount of talent and progress that’s being made in Canada and there’s sure to be some really exciting developments over the next 12 months, so we’re looking forward to bringing the summit back to Canada next year.