By Timothy Pereira, Founder, ConcordA
My interest in AI began when I got involved with Artificial Intelligence Concordia. I was lucky to been a part of the District 3 Residency Program as well as the Fintech Cadence (previously FormFintech) Formathon in 2018 and thought it would be interesting to have an AI focused program inspired by those programs. In general, those who want to learn skills in AI can try to learn on their own with online resources, take online courses, or pursue a master’s degree with an AI specialization. This is beginning to change slightly with some undergraduate options and boot camps, though they can be very expensive (ConcordAI is only $25). On the work side, we saw that internship options offered the bait of machine learning or AI in the name, but sometimes little in real AI work or mentorship. Our priority is to provide a great AI learning experience through the process of creation and mentorship for ConcordAI participants. The skills and experience gained in these programs can bring someone to where they are vetted and ready to contribute at high levels of value in industry projects. On the startup side, finding AI talent is not easy, and a lot of value can be provided in 8 weeks with the extremely high levels of motivation and talent in our cohort. In addition, having a ConcordAI project is the best way to assess participants for hiring.
I’m really excited by what the cohorts and our team have been able to achieve so far this year, and we are planning to scale up the program and do some really interesting things that will provide a lot of value in Montreal and Quebec’s AI ecosystem.
ConcordAI Summer AI Research & Development Program
The Summer ConcordAI Research & Development Program is 8 weeks in duration during May, June, and July and is part-time and designed to be accessible for students and those who are working, with sessions on Saturdays. The program offers the chance to learn and to acquire state of the art skills and experience in AI through creation supported by mentorship. The cohort has the opportunity to work with exceptional mentors, acquire real world experience and skills in AI, and to push the boundaries of AI in research and development projects.
Current projects include:
Most of the mixed reality (XR) content that exists today has been developed by teams of highly talented and technical individuals with experience using professional 3D engine or with a background in programming. The steep learning curve and difficulty of building XR has limited the amount of available content.
StellarX is the best sandbox available for non-programmers to develop their own XR environments, and it enables them to build through simple drag-and-drop creation. Just like Minecraft enabled 70 million people to become 3D content creators, we think that there will be hundreds of millions of computer content creators and XR makes this incredibly accessible to people.
At OVA we believe that machine learning can be used across the entire creation process. We are building the best artificial intelligence that works together with our sandbox users. It can co-create with them in the process of building virtual worlds, help creative problem solving by suggesting ideas, and take out all the non-creative work so our users can work on what’s important.
Itinerum is an open-source smartphone travel survey platform. Its goal is to allow researchers (municipal, academic, community groups, etc.) to easily customize and administer their own smartphone travel surveys. This tool and the data it collects has the potential to revolutionize how cities are planned in an era of Smart Cities. Itinerum has already been used in over a dozen studies including three annual studies with the City of Montreal under the name MTL Trajet.
In each study, different methods have been used to process, analyze and visualize the data, with each team developing their own methods leading to duplication of techniques. The goal of this program is to put talented developers to the task of developing AI approaches that will be able to automatically process and prepare the data for use in Smart City transportation planning and analysis. An essential aspect is identifying trip information from GPS data and determining attributes such a vehicle choices and purposes of the trip. The long-term goal is to have a tool that makes the analysis and visualization of Itinerum data as easy as running an Itinerum smartphone study.
After a successful first cohort, Funartech is glad to renew its partnership with ConcordAI to continue on our innovative project to inject emotions into chatbots. In a classical machine learning approach, the system/bot will detect patterns in the data and reproduce it. In our radical new approach, the system is autonomous and taking decisions by itself. This is a first step towards an open door to AGI!
ConcordAI aims to help address Montréal’s AI training and talent gap by identifying remarkably talented individuals who are highly motivated to work in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We offer these individuals the chance to acquire experience and skills in these fields by giving them the opportunity and support to provide real value to startups and established companies, and to push the boundaries of AI in research and development and open innovation projects.
ConcordAI Research & Development Programs are designed to deliver high ratios of value to cost and time for project mandators while providing the training and mentorship that will create an AI ready workforce, expanding Montreal’s pool of AI talent.
In addition to providing experiential learning, mentorship, and skills for participants and high levels of value in experimental and practical projects for mandators, we aim to solve 3 problems: There is not enough AI talent, not enough diversity, and forming great teams quickly is difficult. We believe we are beginning to show that all three can be solved together.
We are addressing the gap in training and learning opportunities between online courses and graduate degrees in Universities by providing a free and accessible program for participants. Traditional pipelines for producing AI talent are not capable of producing enough to address needs in the ecosystem especially as demands for AI knowledge and experience increase. We believe addressing the AI talent gap in Montréal is key to continuing to establish and maintain our position in the world as a world class startup hub and leader in AI.
Our organization strongly believes in the importance of promoting diversity and inclusivity in the technology space. 92% of our Winter 2019 program cohort of 30 individuals came from underrepresented groups in tech including women, minorities, LGBTQ+, and differently abled. It was a diverse group of enthusiastic students and developers ranging from undergraduate to PhD at many universities (50%+ graduate students) or in industry in Montreal who are talented and interested in learning new skills and technologies. We expect future cohorts to maintain high levels of diversity and underrepresented groups in technology.
In the short term we plan to provide the best experiential learning AI programs in Montreal. In the medium term we plan to scale from a cohort of 30 to larger than 100. In the long run we plan to have an impact in the technology ecosystem by establishing a world-class state of the art AI research and development program, increasing the AI talent base, increasing diversity, transforming technology work culture to be healthier, more inclusive, and collaborative, helping to solve the problem of team formation, and helping to democratize AI.
ConcordAI is only able to operate because of the incredibly generous support of Catallaxy, which hosts the ConcordAI Research & Development Program every Saturday in their beautiful and centrally-located downtown office hub. We are also thankful to Concordia University’s Council on Student Life (CCSL), the Concordia Student Union, Sustainability Action Fund, as well as our project partners, Itinerum, OVA, and Funartech for their financial and organizational support.
Timothy Pereira — Founder, ConcordAI