ECONOMY

Canadians, American awarded top computer prize

Two Canadian researchers and an American have won the world's highest award for computer science by advancing artificial intelligence (AI), the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) announced Wednesday.

Yoshua Bengio, scientific director of Quebec's Artificial Intelligence Institute; Geoffrey Hinton, vice-president and engineer fellow at Google and American Yann LeCun, a professor at New York University and chief AI scientist for Facebook, will also share the US$1 million award.

The trio copped the Turing Award, named after British computer scientist Alan Turing, for artificially creating the human brain in computers through nerve impulses called neurons. The feat allows computers to learn like humans.

It enhances what is called "deep learning" as well as AI that powers an ever-increasing array of Internet and smartphone capabilities, including facial recognition and voice and imaging.

"Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society," said Cherri M. Pancake, president of ACM, on announcing the award. "The growth of an interest in AI is due, in no small part, to the recent advances in deep learning for which Bengio, Hinton and LeCun laid the foundation."

Bengio was flabbergasted when it was announced the trio would received the award.

"I think I am still carried by the energy of that news," he said. "Of course, it's great for me, but it's great for Canada, it's great for the area of research which is getting this recognition."

The Turing Award is considered the Nobel Prize of computing.

Turing was also a mathematician who broke the Nazi military code during the World War II, greatly aiding the allies' intelligence efforts.

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