Not many Canadians realize that it was the publicly funded National Research Council that invented digital animation. It is also one of the leading research centres for digital media in Canada. Speaking at a conference in Ottawa this summer, NRC president Dr. Arthur Carty explained how new media has become a catalyst for bridging the historical gap between the arts and sciences. Below is an edited excerpt from his presentation. Click here for the full text of his speech: Decade after decade, time after time, the National Research Council has added to Canada’s research legacy: What may not be so well recognized is that many of our innovations have direct application to the arts. In the 1970s, NRC researchers invented the algorithms for computer animation and in collaboration with the National Film Board, created the first animated film Hunger. (It won a technical creativity Academy Award in 1998). This pioneering work at the interface of the Arts & Sciences, while perhaps only a curiosity in the early 70s, has had a tremendous economic impact in the 80s and 90s. The computer animation industry is a multi-billion dollars industry, and Canada has continued to be a leader in the field with companies such as ALIAS Wavefront (and) Soft Image. Another medium for the 21st century is virtual reality. NRC has a Virtual Environment Technology Centre in our institute in London ON and leading edge expertise in virtual reality in our Institute for Information Technology in Ottawa. Another art form of the future involves 3D imaging. In the 1980s, NRC pioneered 3D imaging technology. Today, these synchronized 3D laser scanning systems find a vast array of applications from scanning industrial parts for computer aided design and manufacturing, to the recording of finger and foot prints for forensic sciences; from reverse engineering of silicon chips to the vision system for the international space station. Museums, including the Museum of Civilization, use NRC’s 3D imaging technology to scan paintings, sculptures, and priceless archeological artifacts. The images are digital. You can download them into your computer, manipulate and look at them from any angle in real colour. You can send them around the world over the Internet. You can, in essence, create a virtual museum or art gallery. NRC has also collaborated with the Canadian Conservation Institute and the National Gallery to capture the full 3-dimensional, full colour, images of valuable paintings. The Louvre asked us to scan a collection of paintings by Corot and Rembrandt. Last year, another high-resolution laser scanner was taken to Florence to participate in the Digital Michelangelo Project. There are those who continue to believe that the arts and the sciences represent the opposite ends of a spectrum of human creativity – that if you are drawn to the one, you don’t have much interest in the other. But most people who actually are artists or scientists know this is not the case. In fact, there’s a very high correlation between artistic and scientific aptitude. We live in an age of convergence. We find convergence everywhere – certainly in science and technology. Computers and telecommunications technologies converged to create the Internet. Art and science to converge And it is my prediction that, in the coming years, the worlds of the arts and the sciences will begin to converge as well. The arts have a way of opening the mind. They stimulate the synapses, and make one more receptive to creativity. As a scientist, I want my imagination rekindled. I want to be shown how to look at things in new ways. And I believe my capacity for innovation and creativity in my own discipline will grow as a result. That’s one good reason for promoting arts education. There are many, many more. But at a time in our history when Canada is racing to keep at the forefront of knowledge and innovation, I would say that this reason alone should make every policy maker a champion of the arts.