Hugo Larochelle, at the Montreal AI Symposium in September. The Google Brain Team joined 300 other researchers, professionals and students to talk about the developments in the city's AI field.
Photo Credit: Twitter

Google part of growing AI cluster in Montreal

The Google Brain Team was established in Montreal in 2016, with Hugo Larochelle as its lead.

Larochelle, also an adjunct professor at the University of Montreal, is comfortable defining this cutting edge field of study and development.


He describes artificial intelligence (AI) as, “a set of technologies that is trying to give computers abilities that we will intuitively associate with our own intelligence.”

Larochelle says AI is already at work in our technologies, such as Google Translate for example, or some of the voice recognition applications in our phones, or the object recognition at work in how we may organise photos in a cell phone.

“It’s a really exciting and really open community right now within AI in Montreal”

But there are things that we can’t easily program, such as a text editor for example, and it is this next step that is the challenge.

Montreal has been at the heart of a type of AI approach known as Deep Learning, and there’s been a lot of progress within it over the last 10 years.

A former Ph.d student of Yoshua Bengio‘s at the University of Montreal, Larochelle credits Bengio, and his pioneering work in AI, researching artificial neural networks.

“It turns out that this type of approach to AI has really made large leaps forward in various applications such as speech recognition, and object recognition and machine translation so some of these breakthroughs have been happening here in Montreal, in Yoshua Bengio’s lab.”

Computer Science professor Yoshua Bengio poses at his home in Montreal, November 19, 2016. © CP/Graham Hughes

And it was Bengio’s love of Montreal that had industry coming to him.

“Yoshua Bengio was adamant about staying here and not going to industry” Larochell says.

As a result Bengio’s lab grew to include as many as 200 researchers which indluded students and professionals.

Larochelle says that with a talent pool like this it made sense for Google to establish a base.

He was happy to return to his home base in Montreal after stays in Sherbrooke, Quebec at the University there, and in Cambridge in Massachusetts in the United States, working on a start-up that was eventually bought by Twitter.

Now Larochelle says he appreciates the opportunity to give back,

“I do feel like I owe a lot of my career to Montreal, so this opportunity of being involved in creating opportunities for new Ph.D students, like me, who have done, or are doing their Ph.D studies in Montreal  but now unlike me, would get an opportunity to actually do research in industry in Montreal.

And some former students and colleagues of Larochelle’s are returning to Montreal to join the Google Brain Team.”

He says there are other colleagues, such as Joelle Pineau at McGill, who was recently hired to head Facebook’s AI office in Montreal.

She specialises in an area called “Reinforcement Learning” which is complimentary to Deep Learning.

Until now, Montreal’s AI breakthroughs have been useful in healthcare, particularly the application of developments in deep learning to medical imaging.

“Providing tools for doctors to automate part of the process of analysing medical imaging and images, such as images of someone’s brain and identifying whether or not there’s a tumour in it.” Larochelle says.

Montreal provides a very collegial atmosphere with several collaborations. “It’s a really exciting and really open community right now within AI in Montreal.” according to Larochelle.

He cites the first Montreal AI Symposium he co-organised in September. Registration filled up immediately and brought 300 researchers together with industry players and students.

Larochelle hopes it will become an annual event.

Categories: International, Internet, Science and Technology, Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *