The Montreal AI Symposium aims at gathering experts and professionals interested in fundamental advances and applications of artificial intelligence, with an emphasis on machine learning, deep learning and related approaches.

The Symposium welcomes both academic and industrial participants; it seeks to build strong connections between researchers within the Greater Montreal area.

We will feature a day-long event, filled with keynote addresses, contributed talks and posters, and time for networking and socializing.


2018/08/28: 9am session video. 11 am session video. 1.30 pm session video. 3.20 pm session video.  4.20 pm session video.

2018/08/27: Last minute announcements:

  • Do not show up at the event if you have not received a pdf ticket by EventBrite — we will not accept anyone who does not have a ticket as the event is completely sold out and registration will be quite hectic. Please arrive early in the 8am-8:45am range for check-in to avoid 600 people registering all at the same time just before the 9am start — there will be breakfast and you can mingle with other attendees! Also please have your QR code ready (printed or on a smart phone) to accelerate the check-in!
  • Change of schedule: we moved Margaret Mitchell’s keynote from 9:10am to 2:10pm as her flight was cancelled due to a storm. Melanie Mitchell will give the first keynote at 9:10am. See updated schedule below.

2018/08/26: All the program will be recorded and streamed live! Tune to on August 28th 9am for live coverage of the symposium (see above for direct links of each session to watch without a Facebook account). We might even be able to take questions from the Facebook feed. Note that the talks will also viewable after the event.

2018/08/24 ~10:30: Waitlist full and closed (size=200).

2018/08/24 10:05: Tickets sold out.

2018/08/24 10:00: Event registration now open on a first-come first-served basis.

Tweets by SymposiumAi



The Symposium will be held on August 28th, 2018, and is hosted at McGill University. The event is free of charge for participants with mandatory registration. It is easily accessible from the public transit system (“McGill” metro station – Green line).

The day program (8am-5pm) is held in the Pollack Concert Hall of the Strathcona Music Building of the Schulich School of Music, 555 Sherbrooke Street West (see red star on map below).

The poster session + reception (5-8pm) is held in Redpath Hall (green glass icon on map below), a 6 minutes walk away from the Strathcona Music Building.


Daycare will be offered for free during the symposium. However, registration will be mandatory.

Code of conduct

This symposium aims at facilitating discussions and the exchange of ideas. We ask all participants to be respectful of others and to be aware of their own behaviour. Registration for the symposium will require signing the code of conduct available here.

Accepted Papers

The list of accepted papers is available here.


8.00 – 9.00 Registration & Breakfast (provided)
9.00 – 9.10 Opening Remarks
9.10 – 9.50 Keynote – Melanie Mitchell – Artificial Intelligence and the “Barrier of Meaning”
9.50 – 10.10 Duckietown: a Platform for Teaching, Robotics and Machine Learning Research

Maxime Chevalier-Boisvert (MILA); Manfred R Diaz (MILA); Breandan M Considine (MILA)

10.10 – 10.30 Using Reward Machines for High-Level Task Specification and Decomposition in Reinforcement Learning

Richard Valenzano (Element AI); Sheila A. McIlraith (University of Toronto); Rodrigo A Toro Icarte (University of Toronto); Toryn Klassen (University of Toronto)

10.30 – 11.00 Coffee break
11.00 – 11.20 Parametric Adversarial Divergences are Good Task Losses for Generative Modeling

Gabriel Huang (MILA); Hugo Berard (MILA); Ahmed Touati (MILA); Gauthier Gidel (MILA); Pascal Vincent (Université de Montréal); Simon Lacoste-Julien (Mila, University of Montreal)

11.20 – 11.40 A Variational Inequality Perspective on Generative Adversarial Networks

Gauthier Gidel (MILA); Hugo Berard (MILA); Gaëtan Vignoud (MILA); Pascal Vincent (University of Montreal); Simon Lacoste-Julien (Mila, University of Montreal)

11.40 – 12.00 Learning the Base Distribution in Implicit Generative Models

Cem Subakan (MILA); Sanmi Koyejo (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign); Paris Smaragdis (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

12.00 – 13.30 Lunch (provided)
13.30 – 13.50 Fashion-Gen: The Generative Fashion Dataset and Challenge

Negar Rostamzadeh (Element AI); Seyedarian Hosseini (Element AI); Thomas Boquet (Element AI); Wojciech Stokowiec (Element AI); Ying Zhang (Element AI); Christian Jauvin (Element AI); Chris Pal (Element AI)

13.50 – 14.10 Learning to Learn with Conditional Class Dependencies

Xiang Jiang (Imagia Cybernetics, Dalhousie University); Mohammad Havaei (Imagia Cybernetics)

14.10 – 14.50 Keynote – Margaret Mitchell (Un)fairness in AI vision and language.
14.50 – 15.20 Coffee Break
15.20 – 15.40 Deep Learning Method for Smart Charging of Electric Vehicles

Marc-André Gardner (Université Laval); Karol Lopez (Université Laval); Christian Gagné (Université Laval)

15.40 – 16.00 Transfer Deep Reinforcement Learning for Residential Energy Management

Di Wu (McGill University); guillaume rabusseau (McGill); Vincent Francois-Lavet (McGill University); Doina Precup (McGill University); Benoit Boulet (McGill University)

16.00 – 16.20 Deep Photovoltaic Nowcasting

Jinsong Zhang (Université Laval); Jean-Francois Lalonde (Université Laval)

16:20 – 17.00 Panel – Montreal AI ecosystem

Yoshua Bengio (Mila, Université de Montréal), Narjès Boufaden (Keatext), Sylvain Carle (Real Ventures), Mark Maclean (Montreal International), Joelle Pineau (McGill and Facebook Montreal) — chaired by Philippe Beaudoin (Element AI)

17.00 – 20.00 Poster Session + Happy Hour with Sponsors


Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. She attended Brown University, where she majored in mathematics, and the University of Michigan, where she received a Ph.D. in computer science.   Her dissertation, in collaboration with her advisor Douglas Hofstadter, was the development of “Copycat”, a computer program that makes human-like analogies in an idealized domain. Her current work is on “Situate”, an extension of Copycat that interprets and makes analogies between real-world visual situations.  Melanie is the author or editor of five books and numerous scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her most recent book, Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford, 2009), won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. It was also named by as one of the ten best science books of 2009, and was longlisted for the Royal Society’s 2010 book prize.   She is currently at work on a new book about the current state of artificial intelligence and the prospects for human-level AI.

Keynote title: Artificial Intelligence and the “Barrier of Meaning”

In 1986, the mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota wrote, “I wonder whether or when artificial intelligence will ever crash the barrier of meaning.” Here, the phrase “barrier of meaning” refers to a belief about humans versus machines: humans are able to “actually understand” the situations they encounter, whereas AI systems (at least current ones) do not possess such understanding. The internal representations learned by (or programmed into) AI systems do not capture the rich “meanings” that humans bring to bear in perception, language, and reasoning.

In this talk I will assess the state of the art of artificial intelligence in several domains, and describe some of the current limitations and vulnerabilities, which can be accounted for by a lack of true understanding of the domains these systems work in. I will explore the following questions: (1) To be reliable in human domains, what do AI systems actually need to “understand”? (2) Which domains require human-like understanding? And (3) What does such understanding entail?

Margaret Mitchell is a Senior Research Scientist in Google AI, and a leader within Google’s ethics and fairness efforts. Her research involves vision-language and grounded language generation, focusing on how to evolve artificial intelligence towards positive goals. This includes research on helping computers to communicate based on what they can process, as well as projects to create assistive and clinical technology from the state of the art in AI. Her recent work focuses on issues of diversity and representation in text and face images.

Keynote title: (Un)fairness in AI vision and language.

The success of machine learning has surged, with similar algorithmic approaches effectively solving a variety of human-defined tasks. Tasks in image perception and language understanding have exposed strong effects of different types of bias, such as selection bias and reporting bias. In this talk, I will sketch a brief history of addressing bias and fairness in algorithms, unpack some of the known bias and fairness issues, and explain some techniques for making machine learning systems more diverse, inclusive, and fair.


Before the poster session, there will be a panel on the Montreal AI ecosystem. The panelists will be:

  • Yoshua Bengio, professor at Université de Montréal
  • Narjès Boufaden, founder and CEO of Keatext
  • Sylvain Carle, partner at Real Ventures
  • Mark Maclean, senior director of Montreal International
  • Joelle Pineau, professor at McGill University and head of Facebook Montreal


The event is free of charge for participants. However, all attendees must register with an EventBrite ticket to attend the symposium. The event will most likely sell out, but all the talks will be recorded and livestreamed online for all to watch at the event page here: or see in the news above for a direct link which does not require a Facebook account to watch.

As of 2018/08/23: a limited number of tickets have been sent via EventBrite to a randomly chosen subset of pre-registered people. The leftover tickets (less than 100) will be made available from Friday August 24th 10am on a first-come first-serve basis by following this link [link removed — the waitlist is now full)].

Old information below for your reference:

To prevent the event from being full immediately, we will open an unlimited number of pre-registrations until August, 8th.

(the pre-registration form is now closed)

At the end of that month, participants will be chosen at random amongt those who pre-registered, based on the capacity of the venue. For every accepted paper, one of its authors will have a guaranteed participation. The random draw will not be uniform as the organizers will try to get as representative an attendance as possible. To that end, we encourage you to fill in the demographics questionnaire which, with your approval, will be used for the random draw.

(the demographic questionnaire is now closed)

Once the participations have been chosen, each participant will need to confirm their attendance. If they do not, the registration will be relinquished. Participants who cannot attend can also choose to voluntarily relinquish their registration, and this until 2 days prior to the event. Participants who are registered but do not come to the symposium might be barred from next year’s event. This is to ensure as many people as possible will attend this event.

Call for Contributions

We invite you to submit a contribution to the second Montreal AI symposium. We encourage submission of abstracts from both academic and industrial researchers, which can describe a technical or practical contribution, an open problem, an application or a position statement. Previously published material is acceptable. Do not include any confidential material.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Fundamental research in deep learning, reinforcement learning, kernel machines, Bayesian modeling, ensemble methods, optimization for machine learning;
  • Implementation issues, parallelization, software platforms, hardware;
  • Applications, including vision, audio, speech, natural language processing, robotics, healthcare, bioinformatics.

Instructions for abstract submission

Submissions will be handled electronically via the symposium’s CMT website: You will be asked to create a CMT account if you do not already have one. All abstracts must be written in English.

To create a new submission, click on ‘Create new submission’. You will be asked to select your subject area and indicate your conflicts of interest as well as your preference for presentation format (short talk or poster).  Abstracts should be at most two pages in 10pt font, not including references.

Reviews are double-blind: submissions revealing the authors’ identities will be automatically rejected. When citing your previous work, refrain from using ‘we’ or ‘our’. We accept previously published material (including pre-prints) but we ask you not to cite this material to maintain anonymity during the reviewing period. We also ask you to omit acknowledgments in your submission.

Submission deadline: July 13 2018, 17:00 EST.

Notification of acceptance: Early August 2018

Call for Sponsors

The organization of this event is entirely supported by sponsors, as registration is free of charge for attendees.

If you are interested in learning about our sponsorship offers for the Montreal AI Symposium, please contact the Symposium organizers.

Territorial acknowledgement

McGill is situated on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. The Montreal AI Symposium honours and respects the diverse Indigenous peoples connected to this territory on which we shall gather.

Organizing Committee

Senior Program Chair: Layla El Asri, Microsoft Research Montréal

Program Chairs:

  • Philippe Beaudoin, Element AI
  • Simon Lacoste-Julien, MILA, Université de Montréal
  • Nicolas Le Roux, Google Brain and McGill University

Local Chair: Jessica Mastronardi, Microsoft Research Montréal

Inclusion and diversity chairs:

  • Jessica Thompson, MILA
  • Laurent Dinh, Google Brain

Contact the organizers:

Contact the inclusion and diversity chairs: