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Facebook is opening an AI office in Montreal


Facebook is expanding its AI team to Montreal, in a move that will allow the social networking giant to tap into a hotbed of AI talent in and around the city.

Joelle Pineau, the co-director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, and the incoming president of the International Machine Learning Society, will lead the lab. She will retain her position at McGill in addition to her leadership role at FAIR. Pineau will be joined by Pascal Vincent, an associate professor at the University of Montreal.

Yann LeCun, Facebook’s Chief AI Scientist, said in an emailed statement that the office will have a special focus on reinforcement learning and dialog systems.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the news. The two professors’ involvement was first reported by the Globe and Mail and confirmed to VentureBeat by Facebook.

Cutting edge AI talent is hard to come by, and Montreal is home to researchers who are working on some of the latest techniques in deep learning. The city is home to the Montreal Institute of Learning Algorithms (MILA), a machine learning lab headed by Yoshua Bengio, one of the pioneers in the field.

LeCun said that Facebook will be partnering with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), McGill University, and Université de Montréal.

“Montreal already has an existing fantastic academic AI community, an exciting ecosystem of startups, and promising government policies to encourage AI research,” he wrote. “We are excited to become part of this larger community, and we look forward to engaging with the entire ecosystem and helping it continue to thrive.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is slated to speak tomorrow morning at an event in Montreal hosted by Facebook AI Research, according to an itinerary posted by his press office today. The topic of those remarks as well as the purpose of the event are both unclear.

Facebook is far from the only tech giant opening up shop in Montreal. Google already has an office in the city focused on machine learning, and Microsoft recently acquired a Montreal-based startup that specializes in deep learning called Maluuba.

Element AI, which raised a whopping $102 million earlier this year to build a business that helps other organizations implement and deploy artificial intelligence, is headquartered in the city and has garnered investment from Microsoft Ventures, Intel Capital and others.

Facebook already has a presence in Montreal, with a sales office that was created to work with Quebec residents. The company has two other offices in Canada, with one in Toronto and one in Vancouver.

Pineau and Vincent were unavailable for comment at press time. 

Update 5:50 p.m. Pacific: Added additional detail with Facebook’s confirmation of the news and additional details about the company’s investment. 

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