Be More

2021 /22 Impact Report
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Our Impact

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Be More

The capability of AI is growing, evolving, advancing.

It’s transforming business and our lives. And we’re excited to keep building on that momentum.

With the renewal of the $443 million Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Amii is primed to continue pushing boundaries and redefining what’s possible with AI. To be more ambitious. More creative, more collaborative. To be more of whatever we need to be in order to advance world-changing research and accelerate business adoption of AI for good and for all.

As you read through the work of our amazing clients and researchers this year, we invite you to imagine how you and your business can be more.

Be More
WITH Amii 

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Attabotics: Be More Responsive.

In April 2021, Amii partnered with Calgary-based Attabotics to help them improve their robotic supply chain system. The goal: to maximize the throughput of the system through AI & ML, helping their clients fulfill orders faster and get products out sooner.

Attabotics designs and deploys warehouses across North America, working with clients like Canadian Tire. Their revolutionary approach is inspired by the structure of ant colonies and uses autonomous robots, which can travel both horizontally and vertically to grab bins of products. The high-density 3D design allows Attabotics to build more compactly, taking up 85% less space than traditional warehouses.

“Our work with Amii has allowed us to realize so much systematic potential. Our early prototypes have shown potential system speed gains of over 25% by using AI and ML to make better order management and routing decisions within our system,” says Sean Murphy, Director of Innovation.

Amii's expertise in approaches such as supervised learning and reinforcement learning has helped Attabotics drastically improve order fulfillment throughput. The project has used both simulation and historical real-world data to optimize the throughput of the system in different ways.

On any given order, the system needs to decide which bin should be retrieved, which robot should retrieve it and the station the robot should deliver to. These decisions, spread across numerous orders with countless SKUs, have the potential to create a long order backlog.

With the help of AI, such decisions can be made quickly and far more intelligently to improve efficiency and reduce that backlog  – meaning robots are picking and delivering orders much faster, without increasing their speed. Products can now be retrieved faster and get to the customer sooner.

“Attabotics is excited by the results seen to date, and we look forward to continuing our work with Amii to potentially graduate the prototype gains thus far to a production-level service.”
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Blindman Brewing: Be More Sustainable.

Blindman Brewing, a locally-minded, community-focused craft brewery based in Lacombe, Alberta was looking for a way to save money while doing their part for the environment. Working with Amii, the brewery has been exploring the use of AI & ML to improve their CO2 capture technology.

“Last year, we spent over $60K to buy CO2; but now, we produce nearly all the CO2 we'd ever need on site,” says Kirk Zembal, co-founder of Blindman Brewing. “Through that capture loop, there are significant financial savings as well as greenhouse gas reduction.”

Through AI, Blindman Brewing is seeking to understand how they can recapture CO2 most feasibly, economically and in a repeatable and reliable way – predicting what timing is best to recapture the CO2, when it is most pure for reuse, and how often it can be reused.

They engaged with Amii through the REMI (Reducing Emissions through Machine Intelligence) Program, a Government of Alberta-subsidized initiative designed to progress companies along the AI Adoption Spectrum, focusing on greenhouse gas reduction projects.

Through this program, Blindman Brewing gained a foundational understanding of AI concepts and techniques, created a roadmap for potential AI projects, scoped their ML emissions reduction project, and learned how to mitigate the risks associated with introducing AI & ML projects into their business.

“We learned that there are various solutions to different problems, but not all of them require machine learning. The program felt very holistic in that way; it focused on positive outcomes, not just trying to push machine learning down our throats,” says Zembal. “They teach you how to achieve your goals as a business.”

Their positive experience in the program led Blindman Brewing to collaborate with Amii on creating an AI-generated beer label for their May Long Double IPA, as well as Zembal and his co-founder Shane Groendahl enrolling in the ML Technician Certification Course.

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CIOSC: Be More Ethical

The responsible and ethical use of AI has been an key topic of discussion lately. As AI's social, cultural and economic impacts come under closer scrutiny, companies are under immense pressure to develop AI in a responsible way to avoid possible pitfalls, such as unintentionally amplifying biases. However, it can be difficult for companies to determine and evaluate the most appropriate strategies.

“As AI is embedded ever more deeply into products and services, it is essential that companies have robust governance frameworks in place,” says Keith Jansa, Executive Director of the CIO Strategy Council (CIOSC).

A national nonprofit organization, CIOSC provides a forum for Canada’s tech leaders to collectively mobilize on common digital priorities and develop standards for digital technologies.

Amii and the CIOSC partnered this year to launch the AI Governance Education Program, a new program that charts a path toward responsible AI deployment and uses in business. Led by machine learning experts from Amii, the interactive workshop helps startups and small and medium businesses derisk the responsible development of AI products through a focus on ethics, governance and fairness.

“This program gives participants a good understanding of emerging standards in this area and equips them with the tools they need to ensure they are building and operating AI systems in a responsible way,” says Jansa.

Mixing live online classes and on-demand content, the course cultivates awareness of ethical considerations and understanding of relevant factors, and includes case studies on specific AI applications. It also provides concrete approaches, strategies and frameworks for companies to develop and improve responsible AI systems, standards and practices. As a final step, the course helps companies connect with resources and support to build robust AI ethics practices through the AI Ethics and Governance Registry.

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Medo AI: Be More Ambitious.

The acquisition of Medo.AI, an AI-powered medical startup co-founded by Fellow & Canada CIFAR AI Chair at Amii, Jacob Jaremko, will allow the company to widen its global reach and continue its mission to make ultrasounds more accessible to everyone.

In July, Medo.AI announced its acquisition by Exo, a California-based company developing a handheld ultrasound platform. Medo.AI's staff will remain in Edmonton, continuing to work on software that uses AI to make ultrasounds easier to obtain and interpret.

Jaremko says remaining in the city was an important consideration. When he started the company alongside co-founders Dornoosh Zonoobi and Jeevesh Kapur, there were strong incentives to locate it in Singapore, close to its initial investors. However, they ultimately chose Edmonton because of its strong pool of AI talent.

"Edmonton is a very fertile ground for AI startups for several reasons," he says. "The proximity to Amii and the University of Alberta —  it's globally recognized centre of excellence in artificial intelligence. So the AI students graduating in Edmonton are the people you would like to recruit."

The acquisition gives Medo.AI resources to extend its reach, Jaremko says. While the AI-powered software that Medo.AI is building will continue to work on multiple platforms, collaborating with a hardware manufacturer like Exo will allow the team to create software tailored specifically to those devices. 

Medo.AI has already received FDA approval for its AI ultrasound screening for developmental hip dysphasia and thyroid nodules. Jaremko says the partnership with Exo could help them move on to products like cardiac, lung and breast cancer scanning to help more people.

He hopes that Medo.AI's success will also bring more attention to the advantages that Edmonton's AI expertise offers companies and entrepreneurs.

"The more Edmonton is known as a place where AI happens, the more desirable it is to locate here, and the more successful companies are that do locate here, and it all builds on itself. This is a very direct example of Amii impacting how the AI community is building in Edmonton."
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Ross Mitchell: Be More Knowledgeable.

Imagine a world where physicians use AI-powered tools to make more precise diagnoses and treatment plans based on a patient’s unique health information.

That’s the dream of Dr. Ross Mitchell, who returned to Alberta in early 2022 as an Amii Fellow and the inaugural Alberta Health Services (AHS) Chair in AI in Health at the University of Alberta. His return is a great boon to our ecosystem, adding considerable expertise in AI and healthcare that, in turn, will inform the next generation of researchers and accelerate advancements in precision medicine.

In the past 10 years, Mitchell has worked at some of North America's most prestigious medical research institutions, including the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He saw returning to the province as a chance to continue his work changing how we approach healthcare.

“I’m excited to be back in Alberta because this province offers a unique opportunity to create innovative solutions that can be difficult to develop in other places,” says Dr. Mitchell. “Along with a wealth of highly trained people and a robust public health system, Alberta has a culture of innovation, paired with access to data and technologies, which can truly help us revolutionize the way we deliver health care.”

Dr. Mitchell’s work aims to allow physicians and researchers to speed up the pathology discovery process and connect more directly with their patients. His current research focus involves using natural language processing to comb through text-based information such as reports, as well as developing a fluid, natural interface for transcribing notes and accessing information.

“Alberta has an ambitious vision to become an internationally recognized technology and innovation hub. By building on our world-class strengths in AI and health data, we have a valuable opportunity to become a global leader in the development of AI for precision health.”
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Combatting Disinformation: Be More Informed

A recent paper by Fellow & Canada CIFAR AI Chair at Amii, James Wright, and Master’s student Shehroze Khan demonstrates how AI research can go beyond solving technical challenges to inform our understanding of how to develop workable strategies for using AI to solve real-world concerns. 

Disinformation, Stochastic Harm, and Costly Effort: A Principal-Agent Analysis of Regulating Social Media Platforms examines the factors that allow disinformation to spread online through the lens of game theory.

"Disinformation generally isn't a new problem. But we had ways of mitigating it in the past that don't work now," Wright says. "And so we need new methods, a new understanding of how to mitigate it."

The paper points to recent events, such as coronavirus vaccine mistrust and the riot at the US Capitol Building, as examples demonstrating the urgent need to deal with disinformation. It argues that regulation isn't solely a question of technology but also one of incentives.

Social media platforms can have conflicting incentives. While platform users or governments expect them to mitigate misinformation online that may cause harm, that type of content often causes higher user engagement, which usually means higher profits.

And while there are methods that have historically been used to incentivize companies to prioritize public safety, those methods aren’t feasible to apply to social media in their current form. 

This unique aspect of social media is one of the most difficult hurdles in incentivizing platforms to effectively regulate, and current approaches to regulating harm aren’t well-suited to address it. Wright’s paper doesn’t identify any ready solutions. However, he says this kind of analysis is just an early step in the process. It’s common in computing science to first outline a seemingly impossible issue, then to work on splitting it up into smaller, more solvable problems.

“Now can we examine ways that we can change the assumptions, can we figure out a way to make it so that these assumptions aren't true? Those are the next steps.”
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Closing the Talent Gap: Be More Skilled

As AI adoption becomes more widespread, many organizations face similar challenges: unreliable access to skilled technical individuals, leaders struggling to execute and measure AI projects effectively, and teams with unbalanced AI knowledge and vocabulary. Understanding and addressing these challenges is critical to building an organization’s confidence and ensuring success.

Earlier in 2022, Amii and Microsoft Canada published The AI Skills Gap whitepaper, a document that details existing technical and business strategy skill gaps and how companies can take proactive steps to reduce these gaps.

Through a series of interviews, the whitepaper gathered perspectives and plans from businesses working on AI adoption, and insights from some of the world’s top AI researchers and experts who advise industry partners on everything from AI adoption and hiring strategies to ways of thinking about skills development.

The whitepaper found that, although businesses are starting to gain the technical skill sets needed for AI adoption, gaps remain in the selection, development, integration and evaluation of AI approaches. Business and strategy skill sets also remain a growth area for many companies working on AI adoption.

Amii is helping to close this talent gap through several programs, with offerings for all skill levels. Teams and total beginners can access ML Foundations, a set of classes aimed at building a foundational understanding of AI concepts and tools. More technically advanced individuals can take the ML Technician Certification Course, which focuses on upskilling and empowering individuals to plan, execute and present an ML project. 

In addition to training courses, Amii’s AI Career Accelerator helps individuals build their network, prepare for jobs, gain experience and enter the workforce, connecting this highly sought-after talent with AI-ready organizations. Special initiatives such as the Kickstart Program and AI4Good Lab aim not only to close the skills gap but also offer an entry point into the industry to underrepresented genders in tech.

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AI Week: Be More Connected

May 2022 marked Amii’s inaugural AI Week, celebrating 20 years of AI excellence in Alberta. Over 2,100 guests, representing more than 300 companies, from the global and local AI community rallied around the event, joining in-person and online from 33 different countries.

“I was happy to meet many friends from different countries with the same major! It was a life-changing experience for me,“ said Sujin Ahn, an AI Week attendee. “I could learn how my career should be built, and I could meet new people with various mixed career paths.”

For four days, top talent, including AI researchers, professionals and enthusiasts, gathered for business-focused panels and discussions, academic sessions, networking socials and celebrations. Bringing together 102 speakers from the academic, business, government, investment and startup communities across 58 events, AI Week featured 75 hours of AI-focused learning, discussions, debates and collaboration.

Attendees were also able to connect with their peers, make new connections, set up research collaborations and plan their next career moves. The Talent Mixer saw more than 500 job seekers connecting with 19 companies hiring for AI and machine learning roles.

“AI week was extremely well-organised with interesting and thought-provoking content across academia and industry,” said Divanisha Patel, another attendee. “There is a big interest in AI in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada and, as a South African PhD candidate, it provided valuable insight into potential research and career opportunities in Canada.”

To help bring the global AI community to Edmonton, Amii worked with sponsor organizations, offering talent bursaries for early-career researchers and technical professionals to help cover the cost of travel and accommodations for AI Week. Of nearly 900 applications from 38 countries, 515 bursaries were awarded, with more than 50% of the recipients coming from outside Alberta.

“AI Week was a chance to showcase the best of Canada’s world leadership in AI and Alberta’s 20-year legacy of excellence,” says Cam Linke, CEO of Amii. “More than that, it was an opportunity to gather the world’s AI community to help establish the foundations for our next twenty years of impact.”
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how we lead

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AI For Good and For All

As one of Canada’s three National AI Institutes in the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, we collaborate with some of the world’s top academic organizations specializing in AI and machine learning research. 

Our world-leading researchers advance the field of study and fundamental research, and our product teams help companies translate those advancements into industry applications. 

With the second phase of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy now launching – backed by an investment of more than $443 million by the Government of Canada – we are poised to meet our mission: AI For Good and For All.

What does this mean? We are committed to the ethical, inclusive and rights-based development of AI knowledge and applications. To giving stakeholders of all technical levels and backgrounds opportunities to deepen their comprehension of AI technologies and their applications. To working with partners who challenge our understanding of best practices.

By working with Amii, organizations support a continuous loop of AI advancement for the betterment of industry and society.

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Leaders in Research

For more than two decades, our globally-renowned researchers have trained the next generation of practitioners and scientists, individuals who lead corporate and academic labs and solve the toughest challenges facing the world today. Our clients have access to the brightest minds and latest advancements in the field through Amii’s deep connections with Canada’s world-class academic community.

This year, we welcomed even more global leaders and rising stars to Amii with the addition of nine researchers, including Neil Burch, Jacob Jaremko, Bei Jiang, Linglong Kong, Marlos Machado, Ross Mitchell, Mijung Park, Jonathan Schaeffer and Danica Sutherland.

They join a team of award-winning researchers, such as Russ Greiner, who holds a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian AI Association, and Martha White, who was awarded the 2021 Faculty of Science Research Award at the University of Alberta. 

Together with their students and colleagues, this team of 39 Fellows and Canada CIFAR AI Chairs lead the world in AI and machine learning, pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge and advancing applications that drive innovation across all walks of life.

get ai ready

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Are you ready to be more? Amii is primed to help you and your company adopt the latest in AI and machine learning. So tap into a whole new level of potential and develop a clear, long-term strategy that works precisely for you and your goals – wherever your organization is, we’re here to coach and mentor you.