Augmented reality startup ModiFace is investing $4 million to create new undergraduate and graduate student internships, and to support leading research at U of T Engineering.
The company, founded by Professor Parham Aarabi of The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, uses augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to build advanced facial visualization software for the beauty and medical industries. ModiFace technology powers over 100 AR applications by Fortune 500 brands including Sephora, L’Oreal, Allergan, Vichy and Clairol, among others.
“The future of ModiFace is highly dependent on our access to the best AR engineers in the world,” says Aarabi. “For AR, it takes about a year for a new graduate to get up to speed with the latest concepts in artificial intelligence, systems engineering, and computer vision. As a result, we want to invest in students early, while they’re still in school, to start giving them the best training in these fast-moving fields.”
As part of U of T Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship program, ModiFace is hiring 50 undergraduate students into 12- to 16-month paid positions that allow students to gain extensive and meaningful professional capital before graduation. Applications are now open, and the first cohort will start in May 2017.
The company is also launching ModiFace Research Internships, modelled after successful research programs by top tech companies in the U.S., which will allow graduate students to complete an enriched research internship during their master’s or PhD studies. A total of 10 graduate students will be undertaking these internships in the next two years. Simultaneously, ModiFace is establishing a research grant program to support industry-partnered research in fields from artificial intelligence and deep learning, to computer vision and graphics.
“ModiFace perfectly illustrates why U of T is the top university for research-based startups in North America,” says Cristina Amon, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “This investment in enriched experiential learning opportunities for our students further reinforces the strong relationship between the excellence of our innovative engineering programs, and the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem around us.”
“ModiFace’s internship programs will help Ontario’s engineering students get the skills and training they need to succeed in the growing field of augmented reality,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “The initiative dovetails with our government’s innovation strategy, including the recent launch of Ontario’s Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which will help Ontario continue to attract top talent and strengthen our province’s innovation and knowledge-based economy.”
The announcement builds on the recent creation of the Vector Institute, a multidisciplinary research and commercialization hub that aims to solidify Toronto’s place as a global AI destination.
“Toronto is a place where major AR research, development and commercialization is happening,” says Aarabi. “We’re investing in Toronto, and we hope to contribute to a snowball effect — if 100 companies repeated this, it would benefit all 100 companies and make Toronto the epicenter of the AR revolution.”