Twelve Montreal teams to compete for the IBM Watson AI XPrize


Twelve Montreal teams are set to compete for the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.

The AI XPRIZE is a four-year, $5-million global challenge where teams must develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to tackle the world’s greatest societal challenges.

Montreal has brought together the most teams from a single city worldwide – a testimony to the strength of the city as a hub for artificial intelligence.

The Xprize foundation has narrowed down the competition to 147 teams out of the 10,000 signups for its first-ever “open” competition. The prize was announced in June of last year, and is the first to ask teams to define and address their own issue using artificial intelligence, rather than identifying a specific problem for them. MTLinTECH spoke with Xavier-Henri Hervé, Sydney Swaine-Simon and Gisele Ishema-Karekezi at Concordia’s District 3 innovation centre about the competition this past October.

“Unlike other prizes that have a very specific end-point in mind, we’re asking teams to be more free, in terms of the problems they’ll be solving,” competition leader Amir Banifatemi told TechCrunch earlier this month. “Because AI is involved in everything, we’re asking teams to frame the problems that are grand challenges, and use those grand challenges as a backdrop and try to come up with a solution address them.”

The Montreal teams, working out of District3 Innovation Center, the Quebec ambassador for the prize, are creating AI solutions in healthcare, education, farming, water contamination, disaster relief, infrastructure monitoring, and traffic management, to name a few.

“Our teams come from many backgrounds, some are seasoned entrepreneurs who understand the process of building a company, how to build a product, and most importantly, how to recruit talent,” Sydney Swaine-Simon, AI Zone Fellow at District 3 told MTLinTECH. “The others are researchers and experts in machine learning. ”

Currently, there are 147 teams representing 22 countries and a broad variety of topics, but that number will be pared down over multiple rounds, with the next one expected to halve the current participants. Because AI is still so new and evolving, there will also be a Wild Card round later in the competition, allowing more teams to enter as more AI possibilities are unlocked.

The competition will run through 2020, when remaining teams will demo their project on-stage at a TED conference. The grand prize winner will receive $3 million, second place gets $1 million and third place will take home $500,000. Milestone prizes will be handed out in 2018 and 2019 to keep teams incentivized, and all teams will have access to Watson, IBM’s AI supercomputer named for Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s founder.

Click here for to see the full list and descriptions for each of Montreal’s 12 teams.


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