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The International SME Forum on AI

Decisive AI was lucky enough to be invited to a pretty exclusive event in Montreal last week - the International SME Forum on AI, which was presented by the BDC and the Montreal Group. The setting was amazing - events were held at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and the 41st Floor of the RBC building - and I will say that the food was excellent. But the true draw of the event were the other attendees: 220 people were present, and they came from around the world - the Montreal Group boasts organizations in Canada, Brazil, France, Italy, China, Finland, Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.

Photo Credit ©Nina Konjini.

Montreal is an booming centre for AI research, and as is often the way, has begun to attract many other companies and investors as it begins a snowball effect of growth. Speaking at the conference were several of the people responsible for innovation and investment of AI in the city, including Yoshua Bengio, a well known leader in the academic field.

Of all the speakers there, two topics stood out to me most: how video game companies are using AI, and how other companies are commercializing AI.

TandemLaunch is an incubator in Montreal, and as part of their presentation, they had several companies from their portfolio give brief presentations on their product and their company. What interested me were the commercials of this. Usually, when people talk about ideas or products in the realm of AI, they tend to be theoretical, but all of the companies presenting not only had funding and a product, but revenue as well.

It was refreshing to see small and medium sized companies commercializing artificial intelligence. Ideas ranged from music-production aI SaaS provider Landr, to Algolux which is a computational imaging machine learning platform.

Research, of course, is essential - we would not be where we are today without being able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us - but it’s nice to see some other practical business applications of the research.

Also presenting at the main conference was Yves Jacquier from Ubisoft, who is the Executive Director of Production Studio Services. He runs La Forge, which is Ubisoft’s answer to closing the gap between research and production by allowing experimentation, resources and time to their team to convert academic learning into a prototype and beyond into practical applications.

One thing I did notice was that the applications they appear to be pursuing were largely based around assisting developers with the jobs that they already have. This includes things like using machine learning to animate walking cycles or to design levels. An excellent example of this is the commit assistant, a video of which he showed during his presentation:

I also had the privilege of a presentation and tour at Behaviour Interactive. I can’t say much because I did sign an NDA, but suffice to say that I was impressed by both their offices and by what their management had to say both on the topic of AI and otherwise. As their website says, Behaviour is “ the innovation business. We strongly believe in trying new tech, methods and ideas. It's the result that counts, not how we get there.”

I think that they understand gamers and I’m excited to see where their games go next.

All in all, while much of the content of the forum seemed to lean towards convincing investors to pour money into Montreal, there were several very interesting presentations for us as well. It’s great to see growth in the AI industry in Canada, especially so close to our home base in Ottawa, and we came away inspired and with some new contacts. We’d call that a success.

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