This semester, the Vanier’s Mathematics Department and STEM Centre, along with a group of passionate students, launched the Machine Learning and AI Speakers Series as a way of teaching Vanier students about the field of artificial intelligence and making it more accessible to them. As a follow-up to the successful Winter Statistical Learning School that took place over the Winter Break, this was an excellent opportunity to bring in some of the top machine learning researchers in the country. The cities of Montreal and Toronto, in particular, have been at the forefront of research thanks in large part to the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), headquartered at the Université de Montréal, and the Vector Institute, headquartered at the University of Toronto.
The first talk of the speakers’ series was “The Math of Artificial Intelligence” by Dr. Alain Tapp, a member of MILA, and it took place in front of a packed crowd in the auditorium during Vanier’s Science Week. The talk featured an explanation of the concepts of deep learning and neural networks, along with the basic mathematical concepts underlying machine learning. Dr. Tapp also showed recent advancements in AI, such as a neural network capable of generating fake faces.
The second event was an exclusive event for those who had attended the Winter Statistical Learning School and consisted of a dialogue (via video chat) with Nicholas Frosst, who works under Geoffrey Hinton (“the godfather of AI”), at Google in Toronto. The main topic of conversation was Frosst’s research on capsule networks, which was recently published last fall.
Most recently, Vanier had the honour of hosting Dr. Hugo Larochelle, the leader of Montreal’s Google Brain deep learning research team, for a talk in the auditorium followed by a reception in the STEM Centre. It covered basic concepts in artificial intelligence as well as recent advancements in the field. The audience was very engaged in the presentation, which made for some good back and forth dialogue with the speaker. Dr. Larochelle was very impressed with the interest he saw from students at the CEGEP level, since he himself had not even learned to program before he started his undergraduate studies. The future looks bright for Vanier in machine learning and AI.
These three talks are only the beginning of what the organizers hope will be a sustained flow of guest speakers from the machine learning research community. Be sure to stay tuned for more from the Speakers Series. For those who would be interested in learning about the basics of AI, a seminar will be organized for the coming Summer Break and is open to all. No prior experience will be necessary, so don’t feel intimidated! It’s a great opportunity to be part of a rapidly expanding field.
Written By: KC Tsiolis