Professor Derek Nowrouzezahrai awarded the first Ubisoft-Mila research Chair

Picture of Derek Nowrouzezahrai

Mila Core Academic Member Derek Nowrouzezahrai will lead the first Ubisoft-Mila Industrial research Chair, Scaling Game Worlds With Responsible AI, with the aim of using data-driven tools to empower digital artists in the video games industry.

Over five years, this new Chair will support the recruitment and development of junior researchers to work in collaboration with Ubisoft on how to responsibly integrate such tools into the video game creation pipeline and facilitate the generation of larger-scale virtual worlds.

Derek Nowrouzezahrai, also an Associate Professor at McGill University and Canada CIFAR AI Chair, co-led an NSERC/Ubisoft Industrial Research Chair in Believable Virtual Character Experiences since 2017.

His early work primarily focused on simulating physical phenomena – like the wispy but chaotic behaviour of a rising smoke plume, or the subtle interplay of the shadows and reflections in an environment – with applications in video games, visual effects, architectural visualisation and medical imaging. 

Historically, machine learning algorithms have had to make sense of physical realities solely through observations from massive amounts of data but, most recently, Professor Nowrouzezahrai’s group is demonstrating how the integration of knowledge from different types of simulations used in computer graphics can help imbue machine learning models with an underlying understanding of the physical world. This leads to learning-based solutions that build up both a more accurate model of the intricate complexities of the real world, and all whilst requiring less computational and data resources.

The Ubisoft-Mila research Chair seeks to improve video games content generation by sourcing elements from a controlled dataset, like art made by Ubisoft digital artists, in a manner that centres and empowers the artist’s invaluable role in the content creation process.

“Game worlds will only become more and more complex with time, and they will scale in a way that makes it impossible to generate such worlds by simply throwing more people power behind the problem,” Professor Derek Nowrouzezahrai explained.

“One way to solve this problem is to augment the existing human talents’ capacity with technological tools that are designed – from the ground up – to support their existing creative processes, in turn allowing them to generate more high-quality content with similar effort and all whilst maintaining fine-grained artistic control.”

“This Chair is an exciting opportunity to explore how to responsibly source and harness the power of large-scale data-driven technologies in the video games industry, centring the creators at the same level as their creations,” he concluded.