Artificial Intelligence industry takes root in Alberta

Spreading from Edmonton, machine learning could be the new oil

By: Aaron Chatha Metro Published on Tue Aug 08 2017

Alberta is becoming a hotbed for developing artificial intelligence, or machine learning technology.

Alberta technical agency Cybera thinks that AI research in the province could lead to more jobs, and a better retention of our best and brightest talent.

To start, the University of Alberta in Edmonton has led the charge in AI research for decades now. In fact, the federal government recently budgeted $125 million for AI research, and $25 million of that is already allocated for the U of A’s machine learning lab.

But the real kickstarter for Alberta’s AI industry is that DeepMind, a pioneer organization in machine learning, is opening their first-ever international AI research office in Edmonton.

DeepMind recently made headlines for creating AlphaGo, the first AI to beat a professional human player at the nuanced board game Go.

“DeepMind Alberta will turbo-charge the research ecosystem, mirroring the partnerships DeepMind has nurtured with the top academic institutions in the UK,” said UofA researcher, and DeepMind advisor, Richard Sutton. “This alignment of academic and practitioner-led research will drive a whole host of new scientific breakthroughs right here in Canada, propelling the field of AI forwards into exciting new territory.”

This is expected to have an effect not only on Edmonton, but boost the entire province as this fledgling industry takes root.

“Edmonton, Calgary and all of Alberta is forming a centre of gravity that attracts more and more mass,” said Barton Satchwill, Cybera development manager. “We’re going to see more companies coming into town. Instead of all of our well-trained experts leaving the country and going down to the States and Silicon Valley, we’re going to be hanging on to them – and they’ll draw more smart, highly-qualified people from around the world.”

Satchwill believes AI and tech research could be the new oil industry for the province.

“Alberta is well-connected with good, high-speed networks,” he explained. “We have centres of excellence in universities, and now we have these enormous commercial research labs coming into the province. It really will be a significant part of the new Alberta economy.”

To start, Albertans can at least expect a few more pilot projects launching to explore the industry.