Artificial Intelligence at the BMO Lab

Artificial Intelligence is a core interest of the lab. We believe that AI is the most consequential of the many significant emerging technologies of the current moment. While there is currently a considerable amount of hype around AI, much of which misunderstands or overstates the capabilities of current systems, this does not diminish our conviction that AI poses enormous possibilities and challenges which will upend longstanding practises in almost every discipline and indeed, almost every dimension of our society.

AI is also a natural point of contact between a very wide range of disciplines, bridging neuroscience, philosophy, mathematics, engineering, the social sciences, and, particularly important to us at the BMO Lab, the Arts. In the arts, we ask different kinds of questions than those asked in the other disciplines. We connect the world of ideas and the world of embodied experience in unique ways that allow us to probe and communicate what it means to be a human being in the midst of this rapidly changing world.

Indeed because the arts are not always taken as seriously as disciplines with more obviously practical results as, for example, medicine or engineering, we can afford to ask questions that are more speculative and less obviously practical in the immediate term in order to gain insights that will be of great benefit over the longer arc of time. We are trained to develop different sensibilities and sensitivities, and we can bring these to bear on some of the more intangible, but no less important, questions that emerging technologies like AI provoke.

a student in the BMO Lab experiments with a system that allows you to explore the latent space of StyleGANA student in the BMO Lab experiments with a system that allows you to explore the latent space of StyleGAN, an AI system that can generate an almost infinite range of faces, using physical gestures captures with AI-enabled motion tracking system.

Much recent progress in AI has been in areas where there are huge pools of already digital data that can be used to train neural networks such as digitized images, sounds, text and numerical data. This means that equally important areas that have less of a digital footprint in our society are being relatively ignored. Because the BMO Lab is grounded in theatre and performance, we are particularly interested in the experiences and expressions of human minds and bodies moving through and engaged in social and physical space in real-time. If AI systems are not developed to be sensitive to these very human dimensions of our experience, they will not be able to make decisions that take these human considerations into account.

The BMO Lab engages in research endeavours that are different from but complementary to other research efforts within the research ecosystem at the University of Toronto and beyond. And we are committed to developing meaningful relationships with those other research efforts so that we can effectively pool our different skills and insights in order to more comprehensively address the significant challenges and possibilities that AI presents.