Edmonton, Canada has become a leading global hub in technology, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Alona Fyshe, a professor at the University of Alberta and a researcher in the artificial intelligence field, shares what makes the city a world-class destination for tech innovation and events that bring the industry together.
When Alona Fyshe was growing up in Edmonton — the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta — and attending the University of Alberta, she never expected the city would turn into an epicenter of artificial intelligence work. However, that is exactly what it has become.
In 2018, after some time away, Fyshe was lured back to Edmonton for a job as a professor at her alma mater, and she’s thrilled to have settled in such a vibrant city that’s home to a thriving and collaborative network of artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers.
“It’s a remarkable place to be. We have young up-and-coming researchers, but we also have established researchers who are leaders in the field,” Fyshe said. “Everyone’s interested in each other’s ideas, and there are many opportunities for smart people to connect with each other.”
Fyshe is now an assistant professor in the Department of Computing Science and Department of Psychology, and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand how the human brain processes language.
As Fyshe explained, “Computer models of language are exciting, and they’re becoming more and more accurate. I’m interested in using those computer models to understand how we comprehend language, but also how this can help further improve those models.”
Fyshe is not alone in her enthusiasm for the technology and Edmonton’s unique position as a leader in artificial intelligence research. Edmonton is gaining a worldwide reputation as a hub for businesses, and organizations from across the globe are flocking to the city to learn, collaborate, and advance their work in the field.
An organization at the core of the region’s artificial intelligence innovation is the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), one of Canada’s preeminent centers of artificial intelligence. Amii plays a prominent role in building connections between researchers of different stripes in the tech community and, in doing so, developing a thriving artificial intelligence ecosystem in the province.
Amii also represents Edmonton as a member of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the world’s first national strategy committed to building local and regional AI ecosystems, supporting talent and training in the field, fostering collaboration, and understanding the societal implications of the technology.
The region is also home to the Alberta Artificial Intelligence Association (AlbertataAI), a non-profit organization aimed at cultivating the Alberta AI ecosystem and collaborating with like-minded communities. The group organized the first annual Alberta AI conference in March 2019, which attracted 350 participants, including AI experts, IT professionals, university professors, computer science graduate students, and enthusiasts from various industries across the artificial intelligence field.
The University of Alberta: A Best-in-Class Research Institution
When Fyshe isn’t engaging in the ground-breaking research that drew her back to Edmonton, she is deeply engaged in teaching at The University of Alberta — or, as she puts it, “training the next generation of scholars to do machine learning in the real world.”
Located at the edge of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley, The University of Alberta is one of the top five AI research institutions globally, with a world-renowned robotics lab and brain imaging center that are helping push the field in new directions.
The use of artificial intelligence in language processing has progressed rapidly over the last decade, and the University of Alberta’s expertise in this area has played a pivotal role in this. The university continues to provide exciting opportunities to advance this innovation, further contributing to Edmonton’s position as a leader in artificial intelligence.
In addition, The Kule Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS) at the University of Alberta is the official host of the International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE), a leader in the field of digital ethics, and publisher of the International Review of Information Ethics. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron committed to creating an international study group on artificial intelligence in 2018, the institute set out to organize its first annual AI, Ethics and Society Conference in 2019 — an interdisciplinary gathering which explored the history, ethics, policy, business, and science of AI.
Also at the university, the AI4Society Reverse EXPO 2022 brings together the University of Alberta AI research community and representatives from industry, government, and civil society to learn about what students are doing to advance AI-related research and applications, as well as explore collaboration options.
Describing the university’s community, Fyshe said, “There really is an excellent set of people who are working and learning here.” The work of introducing new learners, both students and members of the larger community, to artificial intelligence and machine learning is a collaborative and inspiring effort. “There’s an exciting network of researchers fueling the energy in Edmonton.”
Sharing Knowledge, Driving Progress
Edmonton’s energy and expertise is attracting events and organizations from around the world, tapping into the city’s ecosystem of innovation.
There is ample opportunity to learn from and collaborate with Edmonton’s AI experts like Fyshe. Conference attendees can engage in meaningful tours of state-of-the art facilities, hear from outstanding keynote speakers, and connect with leading institutions in artificial intelligence — and it’s these collaborations that are driving innovation to help shape the future of this increasingly important industry.
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