Royal Bank of Canada is hiring a pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI) as an adviser to a new research lab the bank is establishing as part of its investment in AI and machine learning, Canada's largest bank said on Wednesday. The bank declined to say how much is being invested, but estimated that its ongoing investments in AI will total in the tens of millions of dollars over the coming years. RBC Research said it is looking into how AI can be applied in banking and it will be working with Richard Sutton, a professor of computing science at the University of Alberta. Sutton has made substantial contributions in the field of "reinforcement learning," a type of machine learning that uses reward and punishment. It is a subset of the science of getting a computer to do something without programming it to do so, and is the technology behind self-driving cars and underpins Google's AlphaGo, the AI program that last year beat the world champion at the ancient board game Go.
A pioneer in machine learning from the University of Alberta is teaming up with the Royal Bank of Canada on artificial intelligence research. Richard Sutton, a professor at the school's department of computer science and a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, will advise the bank's machine learning research division and collaborate with RBC's second AI research lab, to be located in Edmonton. Sutton specializes in the same branch of machine learning that Google's AlphaGo computer program used, in part, to beat one of the highest-ranking professional players of the board game Go -- until recently, a notoriously difficult game for computers to play. The announcement is the latest in a string of AI-related partnerships, acquisitions and investments that have been struck in Canada in recent months -- the most high-profile of which have involved Facebook and Google, which have been in a fierce competition for access to talent. For over three decades, Sutton has specialized in reinforcement learning.
With a total of eleven acquisitions in the past four years alone, Google parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is clearly the most aggressive company in terms of buying up artificial intelligence (AI) firms. That's according to market researchers are CB Insights, who recently published a study recapping all the major acquisitions in the space since 2012: In 2013, Google picked up deep learning and neural network startup DNNresearch from the computer science department at the University of Toronto. This acquisition reportedly helped Google make major upgrades to its image search feature. In 2014 Google acquired British company DeepMind Technologies for some $600M (Google's DeepMind program recently beat a human world champion in the board game "Go"). Last year, it acquired visual search startup Moodstock, and bot platform Api.ai.
U.S. stocks shot higher Tuesday, tracking global equities, as investors' appetite for risk increased and oil prices rose, boosting energy shares. Oil was up about 1.5 percent, driven by supply disruptions in Canada and elsewhere that have knocked out 2.5 million barrels of daily production and overshadowed fears of oversupply. World stock markets also rose, helped by solid corporate earnings in Europe, progress on Greek debt talks, and a new pledge by Japan that it was prepared to weaken its currency. The S&P 500, which has risen about 15 percent since its February lows, has slowed its rally in the last two weeks due to underwhelming quarterly earnings and mixed U.S. economic data. "The market has been resilient and has offered the opportunity for the buyers of the pullback to capitalize on it, and that's why we're seeing a move back into equities," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.