It was not long ago that Techcouver highlighted a variety of innovative BC-based startups using artificial intelligence across sectors.
This coverage showcased Canada Drives, which must predict market prices and reconditioning costs to provide accurate prices to sellers and buyers, as well as Charli AI, whose generative artificial intelligence platform Ancaeus is designed for cross-functional use across an enterprise to discover, understand, and use facts extracted from content to generate spreadsheets, presentations, and natural language reports.
We also noted how Seleste is working on thin and affordable smart glasses that closely resemble conventional frames and lenses but use artificial intelligence amongst other technology to empower the blind.
We did this because AI is everywhere—from digital-forward sectors like fintech to traditionally analog industries.
And already in 2023, we are seeing new and interesting use cases of AI in BC. Thus, it’s time once again to explore some of the region’s recent developments and announcements concerning AI.
Whistle Buoy Brewing
Whistle Buoy Brewing Company recently used artificial intelligence to concoct a recipe for its latest beer, a Hazy Pale Ale. In fact, the Victoria-based brewing company was so impressed with the recipe, they named their new brew in honour of the AI.
“Robo Beer” is a product of digital language model ChatGPT, which drafted the original recipe.
“It’s a brave new world with the introduction of ChatGPT to the masses,” says Isaiah Archer, a partner of Whistle Buoy, which launched inside Victoria’s Market Square in 2019.
Since the tool came out in November, “We’ve been playing around with the AI chatbot to test its ability to write things like product descriptions for our website, social media captions, or dumb jokes about beer,” he says.
This year, the team took things “a step further and asked it to write us a beer recipe for a hazy pale ale”— seconds later, there it was: a “full recipe that actually made sense,” Archer marvels. Moreover, “we decided to give the recipe a shot and the beer is tasting great!”
Whistle Buoy is leveraging AI for marketing Robo Beer too. “The beer description and artwork to sell the product were created by ChatGPT and Midjourney respectively,” says Archer.
Whistle Buoy adjusted the recipe “a bit,” steering the product “in the right direction” with good old-fashioned human judgement. “But for the most part the recipe was solid and we actually used it,” Archer claims.
Air Canada is furthering this mission to have Vancouver at the forefront of AI innovation and usage by deploying one of AI’s front-running applications—facial recognition—at the city’s local airport, YVR.
“Many of our customers already utilize digital credentials to simplify their daily activities such as unlocking mobile phones, entering workplaces, verifying identification during financial transactions, and more,” explains Craig Landry, chief operations officer for Air Canada. “We are very excited to now take a leadership position in Canada and test digital identification using facial recognition technology to validate customer identification quickly, securely and accurately at select airport touch-points.”
Customers choosing facial recognition “will benefit from a simplified and seamless process at the gate and when entering our Maple Leaf Lounges,” he posits.
Air Canada plans to gradually expand digital identification options to more Canadian airports and Maple Leaf Lounges—a move supported by the Canadian government in seeking to improve air transport efficiency through adoption of technology in BC and beyond.
“Our government and Canadian airlines and airports are eager to move forward with innovative solutions and technologies to modernize the traveller journey in airports across the country, which would enable a more seamless and efficient air transportation system,” stated Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.
Alghabra believes Air Canada’s pilot project will “speed up processes at YVR, and other airports where it’s established, while respecting robust privacy measures and security standards.”
“This project has great potential in making gate boarding easier and faster for Canadian passengers, while maintaining strong safety measures,” the government official said.
Social media marketing platform Later unveiled an AI-driven feature to assist users with relevant captions for their Instagram Posts. Powered by the GPT-3 API, the Caption Writer will learn to match a brand’s tone of voice based on the language used in previous posts, making each caption feel more on-brand and relevant to the audience.
“We are excited about this latest addition to our Machine Learning and AI solutions that help our users make decisions more easily and supercharge their creativity,” commented Roger Patterson, President of Later. “AI driven features have the ability to revolutionize how entrepreneurial creators and small businesses develop content, and our Caption Writer is an incredible advance in what is possible for our customers.”
In the future, Later’s Caption Writer will be rolled out beyond Instagram across multiple social media platforms, and will expand its capabilities to assist with wider social content creation and the overall creative process.
“Today, AI provides Later users with a springboard for their captions and offers them intelligent options in seconds, freeing up time by providing accurate and inspirational content,” said Ian Mackinnon, CTO of Later. “Our team is excited to take the content development process to the next level through an impressive suite of upcoming tech updates to the platform, many of which will utilize AI.”
Certn and Klue
The Vector Institute recently released a report highlighting Canadian AI startup companies to watch over the next 12 months and multiple companies from British Columbia made the grade.
The list was compiled after analyzing 150 Canadian AI start-ups that achieved major milestones in 2021 and 2022.
“Each honouree puts AI to work in interesting and potentially transformative ways; together, they illustrate a manifestation of the remarkable promise of Canada’s AI ecosystem—and show how AI can drive not only future innovation but also future prosperity,” stated Cameron Schuler, Vice President of Industry Innovation for the Vector Institute.
In consultation with industry partners and through Vector’s own work in the broader AI ecosystem, Vector narrowed down a shortlist of startups that reflect key regions of AI innovation across Canada and diversity in both their executive leadership and AI applications.
“Vector is proud to highlight these innovative start ups as ones to watch, as their successes will support Canada’s quality of life in 2023 and beyond,” Schuler added. “We hope the Vector AI20 for 2023 helps to further put these 20 promising startups on the map.”
A Victoria-born startup wants artificial intelligence to run your business.
“Are you tired of trying to keep up with the constant changes in business operations? Are you tired of digging through processes and asking your coworkers for answers?” ask the founders of JackRabbit Ops, an AI startup on Vancouver Island, which boasts a unique tech cluster. “What if there was a way to have instant insight and growth through a central AI-powered system that is available 24/7 and always gives the right answers at the right time?”
“With Jackrabbit Ops, you’ll be able to chat with your business as if it were a human, thanks to its advanced AI technology that is trained on your specific processes,” the founders say.
The software “understands your business and is able to provide you with answers and insights that are tailored to your specific needs,” which can lead to “informed decisions that will lead to growth and success for your business,” according to a statement from the startup.
“Imagine having a general manager who is always available and always gives you the right answers at the right time,” the entrepreneurs offer. “It’s like having your own personal assistant, but better: It’s always on, always available, and it never takes a day off.”
Jackrabbit Ops claims to save on costs by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks while also minimizing human error. A system of “AI-driven executives” can create processes and train teams while also fielding common questions from employees faster than hunting down a busy human manager.
“This allows your employees to focus on more important and value-adding tasks, and it can also help to improve employee morale and job satisfaction,” the company claims.
Release Notes are an essential and important part of releasing software and its inevitable updates.
But the problem is that Release Notes “require a great deal of effort,” according to a statement from Vancouver’s Railtown AI Technologies.
“Release Notes are critical for software companies, as they provide a record of updates and enhancements to a product,” says Marwan Haddad. However, Railtown’s chief technology officer warns writing release notes “can be time-consuming and error-prone, especially for teams that manage multiple products.”
Wouldn’t it make more sense to offload this repetitive work, he wondered, “and have AI instantly draft your release notes instead?”
Railtown AI believes they have modernized the process, creating a “new and much more efficient way to generate a Release Note.” The company achieves this through its artificial intelligence engine, RailNotes, which analyzes completed tickets to create an executive summary in a clear, multi-language business description.
This gives everyone a “clear understanding and meaning behind every new software release, fix, or update,” the company says.
Haddad believes the top benefits of using the AI-based generator are: higher accuracy, higher consistency, saved time, and customization options for on-point branding.
“Can you remember what your product or service looked like when it was first released?” he asks. “Keeping track of all the updates, tweaks, and bug fixes can be an effective way to illustrate how your product has developed over time—Think of release notes as a highlight reel showcasing your team’s hard work and how your product has changed throughout versions.”
From tedious, resource-intensive chore to effortless highlight reel—that’s the leap Railtown AI is looking to bridge with RailNotes.