Inside the robot-inspired office of Borealis AI, with basketball hoops, chess tables and a swing room

Inside the robot-inspired office of Borealis AI, with basketball hoops, chess tables and a swing room

What: The Toronto offices for Borealis AI, an RBC-run research institute
Where: MaRS Discovery District
Size: 5,500 square feet for approximately 45 employees

Two years ago, RBC brought in well-known inventor, engineer and scientist Foteini Agrafioti to lead Borealis AI, a branch of the company that focuses on developing artificial intelligence and machine learning. Half of the team is responsible for research, while the other half takes that research and applies it to banking. Additional labs have opened in Montreal, Edmonton and Waterloo, with each focusing on a specific research area (Montreal’s lab, for example, is working on natural language processing).

Earlier this year, the Toronto branch added an office in the MaRS Discovery District. The space was the former operating wing for the Toronto General Hospital that has since been transformed into a vibrant, spacious research hub. Robotics have been worked into the decor as a theme, but there’s also a basketball net, skateboards and a vintage phone booth that looks like something straight out of 1960s London.

The lobby is referred to as the “living room.” It’s a multi-purpose space for presentations and monthly team bonding events, like board game nights and laser tag:

The furniture can be easily re-arranged into stadium seating for meetings and presentations:

Next to the living room is a meeting room, but employees know it as the garden room. The table and chairs rock back and forth like a patio swing:

The main board room is decorated with robot motifs. Since it’s a heritage building, the designers couldn’t touch any of the walls, so they focused on adding graphics and painting the pipes vibrant colours:

Alleyways were the design inspiration for the main hallway, which is lined with workspaces. Staff regularly mess around with basketballs when they need a break:

The work room design was inspired by Toronto streets and shops:

This one is barbershop-themed:

The phone booth is vintage (and it actually works). During breaks, staff engage in heated chess matches:

There’s also a fully stocked kitchen. Groceries are purchased for the team every week and staff get to request whatever they want:

Healthy cereals (and not-so-healthy chocolate) are always available: