There are bound to be critics, but deep learning “godfather” and head Google researcher Geoffrey Hinton says his latest contribution to the artificial intelligence, or AI, field could be just as important as his earlier, pioneering work.
“History is going to repeat itself,” Hinton, who is also a University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and the chief scientific adviser at the Vector Institute for artificial intelligence research, told the New York Times this week.
Called a “capsule network,” Hinton’s new approach aims to make it possible for machines to easily recognize objects from different angles or perspectives – something the neural networks Hinton pioneered several years ago can’t do without a lot of practice.
The contribution is outlined in a recent paper co-authored with Sara Sabour, a fellow Google researcher who did her master’s in computer science at U of T.
Tony Lacavera has been at the forefront Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship since launching his first startup while still an undergraduate student in computer engineering at the University of Toronto.
Now, the serial entrepreneur and author says he doesn’t like the direction in which the country is heading – and he has some clear ideas of how we can change it and win on the global stage.
“I love Canada – there are so many great things about this country that I’d like to see survive. But I have a fear, and a knowledge, that we’re on a trajectory that’s not going to take us there,” said Lacavera, who founded and was the CEO of Wind Mobile. “We suffer severely from a tall poppy syndrome where we cut down our biggest and best and brightest.”
The critical first step, he said, is to change the Canadian mindset, which he describes as overly humble, modest and risk-averse. To do that, we need to start loudly and proudly celebrate Canadian successes, he added. “We have this egalitarian mindset here in Canada – we don’t like to pick winners. But we don’t have a choice anymore.”
Just like the purposeful gait of their child-sized robotic exoskeleton, the entrepreneurs behind University of Toronto startup Trexo Robotics are propelling their young business forward one step at at time.
Co-founders Manmeet Maggu and Rahul Udasi this week took first prize in a pitch competition organized by the philanthropic arm of Sunnybrook Hospital in partnership with U of T’s Health Innovation Hub, or H2i, incubator, among others.
The judges, including representatives from private equity funds and medical device companies, were won over by Trexo’s vision to help children living with physical challenges swap their wheelchair for a walker-like device equipped with robotic “Iron Man” leg attachments.
“The prize is going to be really helpful in enabling us to reach a commercial point,” said Maggu of the roughly $35,000 that Trexo will take home.
“The next batch of products we make, I’ll be taking one back to India for my nephew.”
When it comes to the heavily regulated medical space, Robert Brooks says entrepreneurs should steer clear of the launch-it-now-fix-it-later approach favoured by the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.
“The Silicon Valley idea of ‘move fast and break things’ doesn’t work well in health care,” says the University of Toronto engineering alumnus and CEO of SensOR Medical Laboratories, referring to the Facebook CEO’s original mantra.
It was one of several words of wisdom dispensed by Brooks and fellow U of T entrepreneur Marek Pacal, who founded diabetes detection startup Optiggx, to nearly three dozen attendees at a Health Innovation Hub, or H2i, event this week. The event, held at Autodesk’s offices in the MaRS Discovery District, served to kick off H2i’s HealthEDGE Initiative, which is designed to encourage the creation and prototyping of solutions that address real health-care challenges through workshops, mentorships and a pitch competition.
The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is getting into the technology game.
The business school today launched the Rotman Financial Innovation Hub in Advanced Analytics, or FinHub, in an effort to spur financial innovation and entrepreneurship using potentially disruptive technologies like machine learning and blockchain.
In addition to creating new classes for students, FinHub will encourage research into financial innovation in parternership with U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and department of computer science, as well as promote engagement with the financial industry.
“There’s a lot of disruption in the financial services industry,” said Peter Christoffersen, a Rotman professor of finance and the TMX Chair in Capital Markets.
The television show 30 Rock once joked Toronto is “just like New York but without all the stuff.” But the same can’t easily be said when comparing the two cities’ startup scenes.
At least, that was what Huda Idrees took away from her recent visit to New York City as part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s two-day trade mission to promote the idea of a cross-border tech corridor to rival Silicon Valley.
Idrees, a University of Toronto alumna who is the founder and CEO of health records startup Dot Health, says many seemed shocked to learn Toronto added more tech jobs between 2015 and 2016 than New York City and Silicon Valley combined.
“It was quite a surprise for most of the people there,” says Idrees, a U of T engineering grad who worked at several local startups before launching her own.
“That’s because, to them, Toronto probably feels like, ‘Yeah, it probably has a tech sector, but it’s probably not very big.”
The artificial intelligence-powered legal research tool built by a University of Toronto startup is boosting the productivity of lawyers – one of whom tells Wired magazine the AI solution makes “you look like a rock star.”
Lawyers at Fennemore Craig in Arizona are using ROSS Intelligence to search millions of pages of case law and write up its findings in a draft memo in about a quarter of the time it would take a human lawyer.
Anthony Austin, a partner at the firm, compared ROSS’s output to that of some first- or second-year associates, but noted a human lawyer was still needed to turn the results into a compelling argument that sways a judge.
“It lets us get to the fun and juicy stuff,” Austin told Wired.
Areti Angeliki Veroniki is a studier of studies.
A scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital, Veroniki’s post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto is focused on pulling new insights from the hundreds of medical studies done on a particular illness – right down to the level of individual patients.
Working under the supervision of Dr. Sharon Straus, a professor in U of T’s Faculty of Medicine and a Canada research chair in knowledge translation and quality of care, Veroniki is performing what’s known as an individual patient data network meta-analysis on studies pertaining to Type 1 diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia.
Put simply, it’s a statistical analysis of the many studies done on a number of clinical treatments related to a specific illness that, unlike more straightforward network meta-analyses, still takes into account individual data from all the studies’ patient participants.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is an incubator for science-based startups that solve pressing problems innovative ideas, particularly focusing on those that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has recently announced support for the CDL by becoming a Founding Partner of the Lab’s Machine Learning Initiative.
RBC will provide funding and guidance for budding entrepreneurs to push forward their innovative ideas and turn them into marketable products. “We’re thrilled to partner with RBC on this initiative,” said Rachel Harris, Director of The Creative Destruction Lab. “With their support we are able to scale our program. We are now home to 50 AI companies. To our knowledge, this is the greatest concentration of AI companies in any program on Earth.”
From the advent of self-driving cars to the ubiquity of mobile personal assistants, research in AI has been a key driver of technological change in the past decade and continues to grow. Computers, while traditionally used as machines to aid in tedious calculations and large number manipulation, are now playing a larger role in our lives, assisting doctors with patient evaluations and helping law enforcement officials detect fraudulent activities.
“RBC Research in Machine Learning is part of our commitment to the advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence in Canada,” says Gabriel Woo, RBC’s Vice-President of Innovation. “We are not only building our own capabilities, we’re also big believers in creating jobs in this space to retain the amazing talent we have in Canada. We’re working with leading universities across Canada like the University of Toronto to partner with the best, brightest and boldest minds in the country.”
A University of Toronto startup that makes wearable sensors to assist blind and partially sighted people emerged as a big winner at a Telus pitch competition this week.
The company, iMerciv, beat out two other semi-finalists to nab the competition’s $100,000 grand prize with its BuzzClip product. The wearable mobility device uses ultrasound to detect obstacles in the user’s path, warning the wearer through intuitive vibrations that makes use of different frequencies.
Bin Liu, the CEO and co-founder of iMerciv, said the money would be used to boost sales and marketing efforts, and expand iMerciv’s presence in 11 countries where it already has customers.