Greg Mori, Professor at Simon Fraser University, will join Borealis AI as Research Director.

Building off its recent investments in the Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem, Borealis AI today announced it is expanding its network of labs across Canada into Vancouver. The new research centre will focus on computer vision, a subfield of machine learning that trains computers to see, process and understand the visual world. It is expected to open in the fall of this year.

Professor Greg Mori, director of computing science at Simon Fraser University and an internationally recognized expert in computer vision, will head research efforts at the lab as research director. He will be joined by University of British Columbia professor Leonid Sigal, who will serve as academic advisor. Both professors will continue to teach at their respective universities while working with Borealis AI.

“Applications of computer vision are new to the financial services industry. We’re eager to apply this technology to tackle previously unsolvable problems that will benefit Canadian communities,” says Foteini Agrafioti, chief science officer of RBC and head, Borealis AI.  “Prof. Mori and Prof. Sigal are global leaders in the field of computer vision both in industry and academia, and I’m excited to see what we can achieve together.”

Prof. Mori’s research includes semantic segmentation, a series of machine learning techniques that seek to label every object in a natural image down to the pixel level – whether it’s a window pixel, a tree pixel or a pixel of a human face. This degree of granularity allows us to understand the world at a fine level of detail and create applications that can benefit environmental, agricultural and humanitarian initiatives.

“The visual world is such a rich source of information, but what’s missing is the holistic view that Borealis AI can provide with its data sources and expertise,” says Prof. Mori. “I’m excited to work with experts in so many disciplines, like reinforcement learning and natural language processing.”

Prof. Leonid Sigal

Returning to academia after successfully leading an industrial research group at Disney in Pittsburgh, Prof. Sigal’s research focuses on problems of visual understanding and reasoning.

“Borealis AI is a young, vibrant research organization with exceptional technical talent and a unique mandate for balanced curiosity-driven and applied AI research; it’s at the forefront of the Canadian AI ecosystem,” says Prof. Sigal. “I’m excited for collaborative research opportunities building on common scientific interests, which through RBC, will have the ability to create a positive and tangible impact on people and their everyday lives.”

Vancouver is an emerging city in AI research thanks to an already established talent pool in visual computing and graphics. Traditionally, the tech sector in Vancouver has been strong around areas of the entertainment industry such as video games, moviemaking and post-production, earning the nickname “Hollywood North.” This has naturally transitioned to the virtual and augmented reality world, industries that already use reasoning and inference that are fundamental to AI research.

As part of Borealis AI’s initiative to expand its research to areas like environmental science, Vancouver’s rich, varied landscape and its focus on green living also make it an ideal location for this type of research to flourish.